The Murals Of Ely, Nevada

I´m going to split this post into two – Ely is such an interesting place to visit.

The Ely Renaissance Society has financed more than twenty outdoor murals and sculptures in the downtown area. Artists from all over the world have been commissioned to create images of area history, using different art styles. They also maintain a historical village consisting of a general store and several shotgun houses which display the history of the ethnic groups that came to the area to work for the railroad and the mine. A little bit of history will help explain the wonderful  murals to be found all over town – they each represent a part of the town´s history.

Ely is relatively young as Nevada cities go, established in the 1870s as a stagecoach station and post office. Only after it was designated the White Pine County seat in 1887 did the population climb to 200. Most of the activity in the region was at the surrounding mining camps of Ward, Cherry Creek, Osceola and Taylor.

Ely was founded as a stagecoach station along the Pony Express and Central Overland Route. Ely’s mining boom came later than the other towns along US 50, with the discovery of copper in 1906. This made Ely a mining town, suffering through the boom-and-bust cycles so common in the West. Originally, Ely was home to a number of copper mining companies, Kennecott being the most famous. With a crash in the copper market in the mid 1970s, Kennecott shut down and copper mining disappeared (temporarily).

With the advent of cyanide heap leaching—a method of extracting gold from what was previously considered very low-grade ore—the next boom was on. Many companies processed the massive piles of “overburden” that had been removed from copper mines, or expanded the existing open-pit mines to extract the gold ore. Gold mines as widespread as the Robinson project near Ruth, and AmSelco’s Alligator Ridge mine 65 miles (104 km) from Ely, kept the town alive during the 1980s and 1990s, until the recent revival of copper mining.

As Kennecott’s smelter was demolished, copper concentrate from the mine is now shipped by rail to Seattle, where it is transported to Japan for smelting. The dramatic increase in demand for copper in 2005 has once again made Ely a copper boom town.

So – here´s some of the wall art

The Railway

The Nevada Northern Railway Complex is the best-preserved, least altered, and most complete main yard complex remaining from the steam railroad era. It was established in 1905 to support the area’s booming copper mining industry. The advent of diesel trains in the second half of the 20th century led to alterations and demolitions of railroad yards and shops nationwide. The East Ely yard escaped modernization because of its geographical remoteness and the decline of the mining industry it once served

The Pony Express

These panels tell the story of the Pony Express and the telegraph lines as they crossed through White Pine County.

Ely was a staging post for the original fast mail ‘Pony Express’ service, Messages were carried by horseback riders in relays to stations across the prairies, plains, deserts, and mountains of the Western United States. For its 18 months of operation, it briefly reduced the time for messages to travel between the Atlantic and Pacific coasts to about ten days, with telegraphic communication covering about half the distance across the continent and mounted couriers the rest.

Cattle Drive Mural in Ely, Nevada

Cattle Drive Mural. Artist Larry Bute

The Jailhouse Casino commissioned artist Larry Bute to paint this mural depicting the way local ranchers shipped their cattle to market by train.


Miners and prospectors on the California Gold Rush of 1849 found themselves in a legal vacuum.

Miners organized their own governments in each new mining camp (for example the Great Republic of Rough and Ready), and adopted the Mexican mining laws then existing in California that gave the discoverer right to explore and mine gold and silver on public land. Miners moved from one camp to the next, and made the rules of all camps more or less the same, usually differing only in specifics such as in the maximum size of claims, and the frequency with which a claim had to be worked to avoid being forfeited and subject to being claimed by someone else. California miners spread the concept all over the west with each new mining rush, and the practices spread to all the states and territories west of the Great Plains.

Blacksmith, Mural, Ely, Nevada
The Charcoal Ovens

This mural recognizes the efforts of Italian workers who built the Ward Charcoal ovens to provide charcoal to operate the smelter in the Ward Mining District.

The Ward Charcoal ovens were operational from 1875 until 1879 – the silver boom years of the Ward Mines. Silver ore was discovered in 1872 when freighters were looking for oxen that were grazing in the Willow Creek Basin area near Ely Nevada. The beehive shaped ovens replaced the old pit system of producing charcoal because the ovens were more efficient way to reduce Pinyon Pine and Juniper in charcoal. The charcoal ovens were used to heat up the silver ore.

Cigarets N´Whisky An Wild, Wild Women

Of course, where there were men and mines – there had to be a little recreation!

Basque Shepherd and Flock

The 1850s gold rush in the American West and the harsh political and economic climate in their homeland brought many Basque people to the United States.

“The majority of the Basques ended up in Nevada because of the gold rush. They came for the mining but realized they could make more money-raising animals for the camps.

Modern Mining, mural, Ely, Nevada

The Liberty Pit Mural by Artist Wei Luan
A historic interpretive art style used for this mural tends to evoke powerful emotions from viewers as they gaze upon the faces of miners from all ethnic groups laboring to carve out the mountain and retrieve the copper.

In Tribute mural, Ely, Nevada

“In Tribute” Murals
These murals on the public library are in tribute to former residents who were instrumental to the development of White Pine County, and Nevada. They include former governors, and one time, First Lady Pat Nixon. You can´t see them here as they are small details outside the arch.

The Gas Meters Artwork, Ely, Nevada

This is my favourite. It is just an ingenious way of disguising an ugly mess of meters and wires.

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