As I come upon the Red House near Hole #2 on the Comstock Course, I can’t help but remember the little city that became a refuge and oasis for the wagon trains destined for California. Empire City also helped our nation prosper during the “Gold Rush” days. Built on the Carson River, Empire City, in its earliest days, gave comfort to the courageous yet weary emigrants traveling west. They would stay long enough to resupply and regain their strength and spirit for the last leg of their journey over the Sierras into California.
Later, nearby Virginia City was growing and timber became essential for fuel, digging mines and constructing buildings . Soon, Empire City became the recovery depot for millions of feet of timber which were cut from the Sierra Nevada forest. Loggers would float the logs down the nearby Carson River to Empire City. The giant logs were then loaded onto wagons and hauled to Virginia City by 8 to 10 mule wagon teams. Later on the logs were transported by rail cars on the historic Virginia & Truckee railroad, which has recently been reopened for tourist rides.
Soon after gold and silver were found on the Comstock the first quartz mill, called the Mexican, was built in Empire City, on the Carson River. The Morgan Mill came shortly after that. Then over the next few years several others followed. For many years the thunderous noise of the mills and the roar of the train rang out day and night, keeping this important yet small town and the people very busy.
The population of Empire City reached a peak in the early 1870’s of 350 to 400 people. It had two general stores, a dance hall, four saloons and a school house that taught 40 to 50 children. In 1886, the V & T railroad built a station to accommodate all of the traffic. Later, when the Comstock declined and the mills slowly started to close, Empire City began to diminish and eventually was taken back by the desert. The immense mills, the homes, the stores, the businesses and then eventually the school house were all gone. The Red House stands as a monument and reminder that their was an Empire City full of industrious friendly folks who reached out to others in need. In its day, Empire City added a large supply of gold and silver to the economy, which helped the area and nation prosper.
The Red House was built to accommodate the superintendent of the Mexican Mill and still stands as a landmark of Empire City. It is now a very proud part of our Empire Ranch Golf Course.