Virginia City

Gold Hill and Virginia City were rivals for prominence on the Comstock during the Bonanza days. But while Virginia City has survived to present day as a living town, the small community that remains on Gold Hill bears little resemblance to the industrial town of the 1870s - 1890s. While only a few scenes of my novel take place in Virginia City proper, the historical sites that remain were an invaluable source of inspiration and information about the period.



The Savage Mansion, 1962
The Savage Mansion

While looking for images of Virginia City online, I came across this photo labeled "abandoned house" and knew I had found the visual reference for Connor's "Crypt." I held out few hopes that it would still be standing after forty years, especially after I saw how few ruins were left.

I was snapping pictures of a suspiciously similar-looking Savage Mansion on D Street when I suddenly recognized the stone wall and the tree in the front yard. It slowly sank in: I was staring at "the Crypt", now fully restored and a designated heritage site.



The Savage Mansion, 2010

My cover artist Erin Roberts used both old and new reference photos of the Savage Mansion as the basis for The Crypt.


The Chollar Mine

Once the fifth-largest mine in the Comstock, a small portion of the Chollar Mine is still open as a tourist attraction. It's an easy walk down a horizontal haulage tunnel, but I was stooped over the whole time, and I'm only 5'4".  Some miners in the Chollar had to walk up to two hours along similar haulage tunnels just to reach their workspace.

When you reach the cramped terminus room, you become acutely aware that you are under 100 feet of rock, held up only by the "square-sets" - timbers in a cube-frame lattice held together solely by the pressure of the earth and rocks. The best part of the tour was when the guide turned out the electric lights and lit a single match to demonstrate the working environment of the average miner. I am not claustrophobic by nature, but I was relieved to see sunlight after 30 minutes in the mine.



The Chollar Mine also had the clearest map of the Comstock Lode I'd seen all trip. Fun fact: The Comstock is six thousand feet above sea level, and the deepest shafts ran over three thousand feet - halfway back to the ocean!

This shot was taken in one of the roomier parts of the tunnel - note the luxurious 3 inch clearance over my head. The yellow ventilation tube was a hassle to maneuver around, but a godsend in the stuffy terminus room.

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Jane Senese 2011. All rights reserved.