After gold was discovered on nearby Columbia Mountain in 1902, the town of Goldfield, NV ranked as one of the biggest and brightest mining towns in the west. In its boom year of 1906, the town’s mines produced $11 million in gold. A year later in 1907, the mines were generating close to $10,000.00 a day.
The earthquake-proof, four story, 154-room Goldfield Hotel was built on top of an abandoned gold mine in 1908 for $500,000.00. Being the finest lodging between Denver and San Francisco, the hotel was known as “The Gem in the Desert.”
When it opened in 1908, the hotel boasted an Otis elevator then considered the most modern lift of its kind West of the Mississippi. The Goldfield Hotel’s crystal chandeliers, elegant, mahogany-trimmed lobby with black leather upholstery, gold leaf ceilings and gilded columns rivaled the best hotels in San Francisco.
In an era when few homes or businesses had telephones or carpets, the extravagant hotel featured a sophisticated switchboard and a telephone in every guestroom. Meals were “exquisite European cuisine,” featuring oysters, quail and squid. Patrons came for dinner attired in formal clothing – black tie and tails and ball gowns
Once the largest city in Nevada, Goldfield was connected to the rest of the United States by five railroads and with Goldfield’s mines producing more than $10,000.00 a day at their peak, the town’s five banks thrived. Goldfield even had several mining stock exchanges and three newspapers. As the town boomed, its leaders were considering bringing in a trolley to run through downtown.
But, as the mines bled dry, the city lost its allure and the once splendid Goldfield Hotel ceased operation in the 1920’s. During WW II, the military took it over and added a few improvements that included a grill in order to house Army-Air Force wives whose husbands were stationed and training in the nearby remote desert.
At the end of the War, the Goldfield Hotel was once again abandoned and boarded up. Then in the 1980’s, a well-to-do new owner began to pour millions of dollars into modernizing the hotel. His dream to open the former “Gem in the Desert” in all its original splendor went broke before completion. He lost ownership to back property taxes. Vandals carried off most of the newly installed bathroom and light fixtures, eventually taking all but the bare walls.
Today the town of Goldfield is home to fewer than 300 residents, although remains the seat of Esmeralda County, which at fewer than 1,000 residents, is Nevada’s most sparsely populated county. There is no gas station, no bank, no grocery store and much less a newspaper, a far cry from when the city was known as the “Queen of Camps,” for its more than 25, 000 residents.
The Forlorn Elizabeth Haunts
With its glorious past, the ill-fated hotel remains the most prominent symbol of Goldfield’s former glory. But contributing to its ghostlike mood is the fact much of the original luxurious woodwork has been destroyed by vandals. All of the old fixtures stripped away through the years by modern day gold seekers and sold.
Before the hotel was privately purchased at auction for back taxes in August 2003, the Goldfield Historical Society opened the hotel for special “ghost” tours several times a year. Bringing famed as one of the “Scariest Places on Earth,” when the Fox network filmed an episode for Halloween by the same name that aired in October 2001.
During filming members of the crew reportedly observed a ghostly presence in the halls. Feeling unsettled, one crewmember left, refusing to go back inside. Later orbs (foggy ghostlike objects) were seen in several of the photographs taken inside, including my own photographs.
Since about 1910, room 109 has been considered haunted. Legend has it, that this room is haunted by a prostitute named Elizabeth, whom while pregnant was chained to the radiator in the room by the original hotel’s owner George Winfield.
Winfield was so angered when he discovered Elizabeth was pregnant; he denied her freedom to leave. Once her child was born, it was torn from her arms and discarded. Thrown into the cute of the abandoned gold mine over which the hotel was built.
With the disposal of Elizabeth’s child, Winfield left the young woman to die and for days, she cried out for mercy. Rescue never came, she found herself alone and abandoned. Fearing Winfield’s authority, hotel employees were afraid to come to Elizabeth’s rescue and hotel guests could not hear her because of the isolation of the room and the thickness of the walls.
Psychics that have visited room 109, say Elizabeth was either left to die there or murdered soon afterwards. Her spirit is trapped within the modest room that looks out onto a brick side wall of the hotel. On dark forlorn nights, the infant is heard crying by passerby and nearby residents.
On the first floor, George Winfield’s presence has been felt near the lobby staircase. The smell of cigar smoke and ashes have been found periodically by people inspecting the hotel and once, fresh ashes were discovered by an electrical worker within a fuse box that had not been opened in more than 50 years. Ghost hunters on the third floor have also detected high psychic energy.
Many that enter room 109 find it colder than the other rooms and feel a presence in the room. Discoloration from age on the wall where the radiator stands appears to have the outline of a human form. Cameras have been known to malfunction while inside this room.
Other ghosts have reportedly been observed in the halls and on the lobby staircase. Doors sometimes slam and mysterious odors linger. Clairvoyants who have come to examine the building, say the Goldfield Hotel is among several portals or gateways to the otherworldly.
During the annual Esmeralda County land auction in August 2003, the Goldfield Hotel was sold for $360,000. The new owner was said to have plans to refurbish the bottom two floors of the four-story hotel and open them to the public. To date, the hotel remains empty and boarded.
Goldfield is located hallway between Las Vegas and Reno, Nevada on U.S. highway 95.
Kathy Manney is the nationally recognized author of autobiographical, lifestyle and travel articles and the travel columnist for “The Vegas Voice,” a monthly regional senior lifestyle newspaper published in Nevada.
Like most writers, Kathy’s life experiences have made their way into her writing. Special training: Certificate of Training – Clinical Journal Therapy from The Center for Journal Therapy, Provider for Nat’l Board of Certified Counselors and Basic Course in Travel Industry Skills and Travel Agency Automation Course from International Travel School.