Tonopah is a small town in the state of Nevada. As of 2002, the town boasted a population of 2,422 as estimated by the Nevada State Demographer. Tonopah is the county seat of Nye County. It is located at the intersection of the US395 and US6 highways.
Tonopah was founded in 1900 by Jim Butler. Legend holds that Jim Butler discovered Tonopah when his mule wandered off, and upon finding it, he picked up a rock to throw at it. The rock, of course, contained gold ore. The first mine established in the area, named by Mrs. Butler, is the Mizpah mine. The original name of the town was Butler City, but it was changed later to Tonopah, which was the Shoshone name for the area.
Tonopah is, at its heart, a mining town. Founded upon the silver and gold mines of the surrounding hills, the town swelled quickly, with its peak boom in 1905. Over the period of its history, over $250,000,000 in valuable metals have been drawn from the mines in the region. Most of the production from the mines ceased by 1947, after the death of the Tonopah and Goldfield Railroad. However, in 1980, molybdenum and copper were discovered in a nearby hill, and the Tonopah economy was revitalized as the Anaconda mine delved into the earth.
Lately, Tonopah has mainly been supported by its proximity to Nellis AF Base and the Nevada Test Site. It briefly rose to fame when the Tonopah Test Range became the secret site of development for the Stealth Fighter F-117A. Since the recent moratorium on nuclear weapons testing, the military support of the Tonopah economy has waned significantly.
Currently, the main industry in Tonopah is tourism. Landmarks in the fair town of Tonopah include:
- Nye County Courthouse (1905)
- St. Mark's Episcopal Church (1906)
- Mizpah Hotel (1907)
- Tonopah Public Library (1912 - oldest active library in Nevada)
- Tonopah Historic Mining Park (on the grounds of the Mizpah, Silver Top, Desert Queen, Montana-Tonopah, and North Star Mines)
- Central Nevada Historical Museum
The town also boasts a number of reasonably-priced motel
s, restaurants (including a McDonald's
), and a few gas stations.