In the booming days of America’s Old West, the Washoe Club was Virginia City’s most elite private social institution. A membership-only organization born out of Nevada’s fabled Comstock Lode, this “Millionaire’s Club” attracted a mix of mining magnates, artists, and intellectuals who sought to rub elbows with other ‘men of importance,’ and relish in the luxuries brought with the territory’s silver bonanza.
The club opened its doors on B Street on June 1, 1875, in an opulent space with plate glass windows, upholstered furniture, and a mantle brimming with beautiful, bronze statuettes. Its first 60 charter members (membership was limited to just 200) included plenty of Comstock and Pacific coast royalty like Tahoe timber baron D.L. Bliss and Virginia and Truckee Railroad officers F.A. Tritle and H. M. Yerington. The club’s guest register was peppered with prestigious names like General Ulysses S. Grant, General Robert Sherman, and actor Edwin Booth.
But less than five months after its opening, a fire tore through town and destroyed the bulk of Virginia City’s business district. This included the Reynolds Building, where the Washoe Club was located. Although undoubtedly a setback, the club’s trustee board quickly set to work on finding a new space to house their lavish activities.
They settled on a three-story brick building on C Street with a saloon on its bottom floor. The club then outfitted their new headquarters with eight apartments, a reading room/billiard parlor, and paintings by renowned Virginia City landscape artist C.B. McClellan. Now more elegant than the previous rendition, the space even featured a reporting telegraph that provided the latest stock market updates to club members.
However, by the time the Washoe Club was back up and thriving, the local mines were already diminishing in productivity. As Virginia City’s population dwindled, so did the club’s membership. When it finally shuttered in 1897, the city’s Territorial Enterprise newspaper wrote, “The closing of the Washoe Club marks an era in the history of Nevada.”
These days, the space has earned a new moniker as “one of the most haunted locations in the West,” and has made repeat appearances on shows like the Travel Channel’s Ghost Adventures and A&E’s Ghost Hunters.
The club’s second and third stories have sat empty for more than a century, but the first floor saloon is open for business. Visitors can swing by the saloon for the possibility of encountering spirits like the “Lady in Blue,” who is said to appear atop its spiral staircase, and that of an old-time prospector with a penchant for stealing unattended drinks. Paranormal activities such as swinging doors and tipping barstools are par for the course here. Even creepier is the building’s back crypt, which was once used for storing dead bodies during winter.
An onsite museum highlights the structure’s haunted history.
Know Before You Go
The Washoe Club Museum costs $8/adults and $5/visitors under 16.
Guided ghost tours run daily from 11:00 AM to 5:00 PM and typically start every hour on the hour. They run about 40 minutes each and include all three floors of the property. You can purchase tickets onsite or call ahead to reserve space (tours can often fill up quickly).
Taking photos and videos on tours is welcome and encouraged. One of the tour’s highlights (also see it by simply visiting the saloon) is the former Washoe Club’s custom-built spiral staircase. It was actually featured in Ripley’s Believe it or Not for being the longest staircase of its kind without a supporting pole.
The building is undergoing constant restoration, so be prepared for some dust
It’s also open to overnight stays that include access to all three floors of the building as well as its crypt and the spiral staircase. This experience runs $400/per group, and each party member must also become a basic member ($20/person) of The Washoe Club Restoration Project.
The saloon is open daily from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. and serves up signature drinks like the Comstock Lode—a mix of vodka, raspberry liquor, and lemonade—and the Flaming Obe, featuring cinnamon, peach schnapps, and orange juice.
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