The Lurking Legacy of Nevada’s Lead Boom

At the corner of Treasure and Main streets in Eureka, Nev. (Photo by Michael E. Grass)

At the corner of Treasure and Main streets in Eureka, Nev. (Photo by Michael E. Grass)

2013-06-20 12.24.24EUREKA, Nev. — This place might be the best example of an old mining town anywhere along the Lincoln Highway.

Heading into town along Main Street, the names of the crossstreets are inspired by mining — Gold, Silver, Treasure, Bullion and Mineral streets.

A historic marker on the way into town succinctly describes Eureka’s boom and bust. Naturally, a miner yelled “Eureka!” when a rich vein of silver-lead ore was discovered here in 1864 and that’s how this place got its name. (In ancient Greek, “Eureka” means “I’ve found it,” a saying that’s been attributed to Archimedes.)

Back in the days of plenty, Eureka had plenty of smelters — 16, to be exact. And saloons, too. One-hundred of them.

As Pete Davies noted in American Road, Eureka¬†was once home to 9,000 people and with an abundance of smelting, it was called the Pittsburgh of the West, “with toxic air to match.”

By the early 1890s, Eureka’s glory days were waning. But the legacy of that late 19th century prosperity remains, with hints of the good, the bad and the dangerous.

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