Tuesday, October 25, 2011

American Flats

Just west of Goldhill Nevada on State Route 341, lies American Flats; and the remains of the Comstock Merger Mines cyanide mill. Time and wind have reduced the mill to strangely beautiful skeletal remains. The crumbling reinforced concrete monoliths (there are eight of them), rise out of the desert like post-apocalyptic temples, whose clandestine devotees leave cryptic messages and painted images as offerings to the silent, long dead gods. Some regard the ruins, complete with falling concrete, unprotected drop-offs, flooded tunnels and subterranean vaults a public hazard; others see it as an important piece of Comstock history.


Circa 1925, courtesy of BLM

Gold and silver mining began in American Flat after 1860 when the Comstock discoveries extended beyond the Gold Canyon ravine. By 1864 American City had become a town and its citizens tried to secure the territorial capital from Carson City. Promoters at American City offered $50,000 to the Nevada territorial government if it would relocate there. The Storey County papers backed the removal attempt, but the legislators rejected the offer. During 1864-66 American City was a thriving town with two large hotels amid other businesses, a post office and its own township officers. But the community never took root and by late 1867 American City was all but gone. In 1920, the United Comstock Mining Co. constructed a $1.5 million four-story cyanide mill of reinforced concrete on the site to process low-grade ores coming out of the Comstock Lode. Three years later the Comstock Merger Mines Inc. was formed to operate a group of Comstock mines in the middle of the lode and in 1923 acquired the mill when the United Comstock Mining Co. went out of business. A small company camp just below the mill included a store, houses, a post office and other buildings until December 1926, when the Merger Mines Company closed the mill because of the falling price of silver.

Current Issues

The building at American Flats has been the subject of much debate this past year. In December 2010, the Nevada Appeal reported that the BLM was moving forward with plans to demolish and reclaim the site; causing an outcry among those that would see the old buildings preserved. At present, the demolition is on hold until further studies to determine the sites’ historic value can be conducted.

The remains at American Flats have been a gathering hole for dirt bikers, graffiti artists, paint ballers and partyers for decades. Although one of the arguments for its destruction is the danger, few injuries or fatalities have been reported in its 89 year history. According to an article in the Reno News and Review, soon after the 1922 operation began, at least one worker, Rodie Sheeke, was killed after an ore train failed to stop when it was supposed to and crushed him against an ore dump. In 1935, firefighter George Harris died while working a fire at American Flat. A quick internet search only produced only one mention of a more recent death; it seems someone tried to drive somewhere not meant for vehicles back in the 1990s.


Back in April of this year, G and I went along with members of the Reno Paranormal Group and the Metaphysical Learning Center (formerly the Sierra Psychic Academy) on a daylight investigation of the building out at American Flats. G and I spent most of our time in the underground tunnels, heard some sounds of footsteps crunching gravel, had the distinct impression of a presence near us and caught an EVP near one of the flooded areas. That said; we had to throw out all our data. The wind whistling through the tunnels, along with the sounds of distant motorcycles contaminated pretty much most of my recordings. As for the “presence”, it’s creepy in those underground tunnels, and I have an active imagination. I caught nothing on film, although another investigator had some interesting light anomalies show up on her pictures.

Is American Flats haunted? Who knows, I certainly don’t. One thing I do know, I fell in love with the place. Whether one sees the mill remains as an eye-sore or a thing of beauty, there is no denying that these relics of the past will not go quietly into the night. American Flats maintains a stark and dramatic beauty and continues to attract much attention from seekers of the curious.


Anonymous said...

Awesome to finally get some history! We did a fashion photo shoot here in 2010 that came out great. I fell in love with the place as well. If you're interested in the photos you may email me... Msnicholexo@yahoo.com.

Anonymous said...

Having spent a whole lot of time there as a teenager I actually do believe there is something paranormal about the place. I have rarely seen it in the daytime though. Good to see it's still there as it was not closed to the public in the late 90s for quite a while and I heard it was scheduled for demolition.

The Haunted West: said...

Yes, I read the article in the Reno Gazette-Journal recently about the planned demolition. It’s pretty apparent that the BLM has made its mind up to tear down this historic landmark, regardless of the many opposing opinions. What I find so incredulous is the BLM approximates the cost of demolition will be roughly $4 million. However, a proposal submitted by the State Historic Preservation Office would have preserved the mill while also addressing safety issues at an estimated cost of only $2 million. Does anyone else see the misguided management of taxpayer’s dollars here?

Anonymous said...

First off so many people have so many memories here, and I have some amazing pictures throughout the years. Second, we can't do anything to control this demolition except get rid of our gov't and take care of it ourselves. They just have to spend our tax money!It will be a sad day if they actually follow though with this. such a piece of history and it always brought peace to me to climb the fences and show friends and family all aspects. It brings goosebumps to think about it. I will keep hoping they don't do this.

Anonymous said...

I partied in this place several times as a teenager and with over 100 other people on several accounts not one person was injured

Anonymous said...

we ALL spent a LOT of time up there as teenage anarchists in Washoe Valley. I can tell you there are DEFINATELY at least 2 or 3 spirits there... positive energies, despite all the negativity there, protective and male entities. I've been to this place dozens of times, often alone and late night. I've stayed there many times overnight and once woke up with a rat on my chest, looking into my face (no shit). Some of the best and most memorable experiences of our youth (and some blurry memories too) are from American Flats in the 90's... yea it's always been "closed" but that never stopped anyone and YES it's haunted.

Anonymous said...

I wish the flats wouldnt of gotten shut down

Don S said...

Just ran into this blog when I typed a search on the American Flats..We always called it "the flats" I grew up and lived in the Virginia City/Dayton area up until I graduated high school..My older brothers partied there a lot and me and my friends did too..I will note to you that there was always a warning given to us about partying there..It was pretty common knowledge that people would go there to practice witchcraft. So we were always told to watch out for strangers who would just show up uninvited. It had to do with the location and ancestry of the land..That's all I know. Thanks for the memories!

Don S.

Don S said...

Ha!..I now just see that others have mentioned the same type of activity from the flats on here..It's true. I have always been a highly sensitive person to stuff like that..Especially when its "heavy".

Anonymous said...

My original interest in the "flats" were it was a fantastic place to record Nevada History Old and New. For people who have sentiments concerning the flats regardless of the type, it would be a shame to see it torn to the ground. I have always questioned the grey brain matter of the BLM, and this just solidifies my opinion of them :O(

Anonymous said...

This building was featured in the 1989 movie "Far From Home" (at 42:11).
It's on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nKVkVkNbr-U

mcdanel said...

April 2014, I was there just this weekend. Ran into a group from Redding CA shooting a music video, and National Guardsmen practicing urban assault with airsoft rifles. None of us had any problem stepping over the fence and disregarding the "area closed" signs. The graffiti art is amazing.