I’m just back from one week out West (United States). A business trip for sure, but I was able to peel away for excursions to a number of photo-worthy destinations – – expect my forthcoming Daily Photo Phix’ to be populated with images from this trip.
This particular post regards Rhyolite. According to wikipedia:
Rhyolite is an igneous, volcanic (extrusive) rock, of felsic (silica-rich) composition (typically > 69% SiO2 — see the TAS classification). It may have any texture from glassy to aphanitic to porphyritic. The mineral assemblage is usually quartz, alkali feldspar and plagioclase (in a ratio > 1:2 — see the QAPF diagram). Biotite and hornblende are common accessory minerals.
Apparently, in the late 1800s, there was a bunch of this stuff in the foothills of southwestern Nevada in what now occupies the uppermost corner of Death Valley National Park. The short version: when it ran out, so too did the people of the town called, of course, Rhyolite, Nevada.
The geographic area, known originally as Bullfrog, experienced a gold rush mad dash as wealth seekers, developers, miners and others flocked to the area. Many settled into the town of Rhyolite, which housed the Montgomery Shoshone Mine.
An industrialist named Charles M. Schwab (not Charles R. Schwab of brokerage firm fame) bought the mine in 1906 and began developing the town’s infrastructure, which included plumbing, electricity, and a railroad system. By 1907, the town was booming, with electric lights, telephone service, newspapers, a bank, a hospital, a school and even an opera house. By 1908, there were approximately 5,000 residents of Rhyolite.
Once the richest ore was exhausted, however, the mining business dried up and subsequently so too did most everything else. It didn’t help matters that San Francisco suffered a major earthquake in 1906 and the U.S. financial markets went into a moderate collapse a year later. That made capital hard to come by, hampering Rhyolite’s efforts to reinvent its industry and way of life.
By 1910, the mining company was in trouble… and it closed just a year later. By that point, the population had dropped to under 1,000 and by 1920, it was almost zero, save for a few hearty souls who tried to maintain their homes in the emerging ghost town.
On the day I was there, it truly felt like a ghost town. There was nobody around, except for one couple who drove up the main road, jumped out of their car for a quick photo in front of the former bank (the top photo in this post) and then off they sped. There are a few seemingly abandoned trailer homes on the outskirts of Rhyolite, most in severe disrepair. Near one, however, I spotted a few modern era toys strewn in front of one of the doors. To say it was creepy would be a gigantic understatement. I had visions of living out a true-to-life Quentin Tarantino movie plot right there in Rhyolite. No thank you…
Photographically speaking, it was fascinating. And I experimented with various black and white effects on some of these photos, trying to capture the turn-of-the-century mood of this once booming mining town.
Stay tuned for more Western-themed images…
Posted by Rey