A Living Project

The Spirit of Sun Mountain is what – for want of a better phrase – I’ll call a living project. You see, Virginia City has a way of getting inside your head and under your skin. On many occasions I’ve been told or chanced to overhear someone expressing the sentiment of destiny in relation to life in Virginia City. “You don’t choose Virginia City. The city chooses you…” I would like to think that those believers are right, and while I don’t know if the city will ever choose me, I’ve often found my way back there over the years, sometimes in person but often through books. And each time I go, I meet someone new and remarkable (a prerequisite of belonging in Virginia City, I think). It was these chance encounters with extraordinary people—both in the flesh and in the pages of books—that led me to create The Spirit of Sun Mountain, a place where some of the best stories I have ever had the privilege of hearing can live in perpetuity. So, I’ll go back to Virginia City for more stories whenever I’m able. And if you’ll just come back here whenever you’re able, together, we’ll keep this project alive and celebrate the Spirit of Sun Mountain and the stories of those people who choose—or perhaps are chosen—to make their lives there.   ~Jeri

About the Stories
Looking North down 19th century C Street. 
Courtesy of University of Nevada, Reno Special Collections Department.

Virginia City is located on the eastern slopes of Mount Davidson, known during the nineteenth century as “Sun Mountain.” Why the mountain was called Sun Mountain is a topic of debate, though some people, like Virginia City resident Joe Curtis, believe that the name originated from the golden-yellow wildflowers that cover the slopes of Mount Davidson during the springtime of some years. Originally this post was titled “The Story of Sun Mountain.” And after it was given a title, it remained a blank page for months. But that was before I had accepted just how ill-equipped I am to recount the larger story of Virginia City’s history—a city that was once the largest between Denver and San Francisco, for a brief time home to the renowned humorist Mark Twain, and reputed to have nearly 800 miles of mining tunnels left beneath its surface even today. It’s really okay though—my inability to write a fitting history of Sun Mountain—because many more skilled a wordsmith and astute a mind than my own have contributed to the literature that’s been written about Virginia City over the last century and half, and below you’ll find a list that I’ve compiled of some of their works. Furthermore, the Spirit of Sun Mountain wasn’t born out of any desire to provide an in-depth history of Virginia City. It was created as a celebration of the persevering spirit that has existed in the people who call Virginia City home since the first of them arrived on the […]

The City Then and Now

I’ve taken the liberty—with permission from UNR’s Special Collections Department, of course—of creating a few short videos that show some of the famous buildings on C Street in Virginia City in a transition from past to present. Hopefully these videos will serve to give you a better idea of what it might have been like to walk through the center of town or look west toward the city sixty—or even a hundred—years ago. Historic Photos: Special Collections, University of Nevada-Reno Library The following poem was written by Joe Goodman. Goodman was the publisher of the Territorial Enterprise newspaper during the 1860s. The poem was written years after he’d moved away from Virginia City. It has been reprinted in countless books and captures the essence of the community for which it was written: In youth, when I did love, did love, (To quote the Sexton’s homely ditty) I lived six thousand feet above Sea level, in Virginia City. The site was bleak, the houses small The narrow streets unpaved and slanting, But now it seems to me of all The spots on earth the most enchanting. Let art with all its cunning strive, Let nature lavish all her splendor, One touch of sentiment will give A charm more beautiful and tender; And so that town howe’er uncouth To others who have chanced to go there Enshrines the ashes of my youth, And there is Fairyland — or nowhere. Who tends its marts, who treads its ways Are mysteries beyond my guessing, […]