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Southern Nevada town’s mining history and dark skies make it a gratifying stop on the road.
Photo: Garrett Perchetti
Minnie Perchetti describes herself as blessed. You might, too, if you were able to have coffee and toast every morning with your three sons, Bob, Bud, and Nick. Most days her grandson, Brett, pays her a visit, too.
The 89-year-old Tonopah matriarch’s story epitomizes small-town America. She lives next door to the house in which she was born in 1920, and her social network extends far beyond the four pick-up trucks routinely parked in front of her house. “I know everyone and have a lot of friends,” says Perchetti, who eats lunch every day with her friends at the senior center. “Ask anyone in Tonopah if they know Minnie Perchetti,” says her daughter-in-law, Deborah. “They’ll tell you, ‘She’s a true sweetheart.’ She is well loved here.”
Such a tight-knit community lends itself to popular events such as Jim Butler Days, a Memorial Day Weekend tradition featuring a street dance, parade, and mining competitions. “There’s always something going on,” Perchetti says. “I enjoy watching the fishing derby every Father’s Day at Rye Patch.”
In her lifetime, Perchetti has seen Tonopah go from a buzzing mining town to the sleepy, yet intriguing, town it is today. In fact, her late husband, Tony, came to Tonopah from Michigan in the 1930s to work in the mines. Tragically, he developed severe cases of silicosis and diabetes and passed away in 1973.
The town’s mining history left in its wake one of the area’s most popular attractions, the Tonopah Historic Mining Park. In addition to the underground adventure, visitors can enjoy preserved and restored equipment and buildings, historic exhibits, video presentations, and a self-guided tour. The park, at more than 100 acres, is located on the grounds of Jim Butler’s original mining claims that started the rush to Tonopah in 1900.
The Central Nevada Museum offers even more mining memorabilia, but it also delves into the area’s rich ranching, pioneer, and Western Shoshone history through displays and a vast photo collection. Visitors also get a lesson on the geology and plant life of Nye and Esmeralda Counties.
The Mizpah Hotel, in the center of town, is symbolic of the boom-and-bust reputation of Nevada’s rural mining towns. The five-story hotel, dating to the early 1900s, was an elegant social center in its early days, but the property is now vacant. These days, Tonopah Station and the Banc Club provide residents and visitors an opportunity to gamble, or just socialize.
Recently USA Today rated Tonopah the number-one stargazing destination in America. Almost directly in the middle—geographically speaking—of Nevada’s two biggest cities, Las Vegas and Reno, Tonopah isn’t subjected to the same light pollution as other rural towns in the Silver State. Its surrounding skies show more than 7,000 stars, including the Milky Way, on a clear, moonless night.
Outdoor enthusiasts in the area enjoy rock hunting, hiking, bird watching, wildlife viewing, mountain biking, off-roading, and hunting. “You can have whole mountain ranges to yourself,” says photographer and 26-year Tonopah resident Jim Galli.
TONOPAH’S EARLY YEARS
May 19, 1900 — Jim Butler discovers silver deposits
Oct. 1900 — Work on Mizpah mine begins
April 10, 1901 — Post Office opens
1902 — Tonopah-Belmont Mining Company formed
1902-1904 — Wyatt Earp resides in Tonopah
May 1905 — Tonopah becomes Nye County seat
Nov. 17, 1908 — Mizpah Hotel opens
1912 — Tonopah Public Library opens
1913 — $10 million in gold, silver, copper, and lead mined in Tonopah
1968 — Howard Hughes’ Summa Corporation buys 100 claims in Tonopah
MEET NEVADA MAGAZINE
TOUR AROUND NEVADA
(Nye County Planning Dept.)
*Nevada Magazine is proud to partner with Virginia City etching company Botcha-Caloop’s in the production of the Tour Around Nevada plaque.
WORTH A CLICK
Barbecue & Fireworks, July 4
Tonopah Farmers’ Market, July 6-Oct. 5 (Mondays)
Nevada Boomtown History Event,
Old-Timers Picnic & Dance, Aug. 15-16
Christmas Bazaar, Nov. 21
More events & info at tonopahnevada.com