Friday, April 3, 2009

Gold Hill Hotel: A History

There are so many places I would love to explore in and around the Comstock: the remains of Johntown, Silver City, and Sutro. In Virginia City: the Silver Terrace Cemetery, St. Mary's Art Center, The Old Washoe Club, the Delta Saloon, the Fourth Ward School, Mackay Mansion, to name a few. But since as my friends and I are relatively new at ghost hunting, we all agreed that the Gold Hill Hotel would be a good place to start.

Gold Hill is situated on a steep grade between Virginia City and Silver City, on Highway 342. The Gold Hill Hotel is the oldest hotel in Nevada, built some time before 1862. When the Comstock Lode was discovered in 1859, there was a frenzy to dig out as much gold as possible, and little attention was paid to where one slept. Men lived in tents, shacks, and holes dugout of the mountainside. When winter set in that year, many headed back into California. However, in 1860, the masses returned and the population of Gold Hill and nearby Virginia City exploded. Once it was determined how large the strike was, more permanent types of shelter was needed for the miners. Hotels and boarding houses were in big demand.

In 1861, Miss Louise Forster and Alfred Riesen formed a partnership to build and operate a hotel on land they jointly owned on the west side of Main Street. It was called the Riesen House. At the time there was already another hotel called the Gold Hill Hotel. The Riesen House encountered problems when melting snow and rains caused substantial structural damage and collapse. The main part of the building held up and repairs were made. This misfortune may have caused Forster and Riesen to dissolve their partnership, because by late 1862, Horace M. Vesey leased and operated the hotel with his son, Edward. The building was renamed Vesey's Exchange, then Vesey's Hotel and later, the Vesey House. Vesey ended his association with the building in 1867. It is uncertain who operated the hotel afterward, but it is known that the hotel was still in operation when Horace Vesey died in Reno on March 19, 1876. By this time the Comstock had begun its decline. According to insurance records, in 1890 the building was listed as the Capital Hotel.

By 1907, the building was used as a private residence, and little is known of its history until 1958 when the building was purchased by Dorothy and Fred Inmoor and operations resumed under the name Gold Hill Bar and Hotel. Bill Fain is the current owner of the Gold Hill Hotel. Fain renovated the building in 1986 and added more rooms.

Possibly due to its proximity to the ill fated Yellow Jacket Mine, the Gold Hill Hotel is reported to have quite a bit of paranormal activity. Although this activity has been reported throughout the hotel, 2 rooms are thought to be more haunted than the rest. Rooms number 4 and 5 are located in the oldest part of the building, directly above the bar and great room.

In room 4, the scent of rose water is thought to signal the presence of an entity known as Rosie. It is generally thought that Rosie may have been a former housekeeper. The scent has been experienced by both visitors and staff. A dark haired man sporting a mustache has been spotted on occasion in room 5, along with the smell of cigar smoke. He is referred to as William.

Besides these two apparitions, reports of odd smells, items moving on their own, sounds of moving furniture, footsteps and voices heard in empty hallways have all been reported throughout the rest of the hotel.

The history and reports of paranormal activity at the Gold Hill Hotel peaked my interest enough to go ahead and call up the Gold Hill Hotel to find out the availability of rooms 4 and 5. February being a slow season, there was no problems booking. I felt a little strange specifically requesting the most haunted rooms, but the hotel clerk was very friendly and helpful (she must get a lot of inquiries of this sort). W.I.G.S. was going to Gold Hill!

Next time: The investigation.

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