Tourism Cares recently had their fifth annual Tourism Cares for
America restoration event in conjunction with the Virginia City
Convention and Tourism Authority, the Nevada commission on Tourism
and 300 volunteers from the tourism industry from across the
country. The task for this year was to put Virginia City, Nev.,
back on track to its former splendor.
A three-hour drive from Sacramento, Virginia City a mining city
once known as the “richest place on earth” after the discovery of
silver ore was Tourism Cares for America’s first foray into the
Western U.S. and their biggest restoration project to date.
“With a population of 1,100, Virginia City just does not have the
tax base to fund the necessary maintenance of its numerous historic
sites,” said Bruce Beckham, executive director of Tourism Cares.
“The area is a living symbol of American history, and the entire
city is a Historic District listed on the National Register of
Historic Places. It is critical that we do our part to preserve it
for the benefit of current and future generations.”
Usually, Tourism Cares for America focuses on one particular site,
but because of Virginia City’s unique need, this is the first time
the organization has restored multiple sites in one area.
Volunteers worked on Piper’s Opera House, which was constructed in
the 1880s and attracted performers like Harry Houdini, John
Barrymore and Lillie Langtry; St. Mary’s Art Center, a former
hospital; St. Mary’s in the Mountains, the most prominent structure
to survive the great fire of 1875; Fourth Ward School and Cultural
Center, which was built in 1876 and houses exhibits featuring the
history and culture engendered by the discovery of the Comstock
Lode; Silver Terrace Cemeteries, with its tombstones and
mausoleums; the Virginia & Truckee Railroad, which takes
tourists into the heart of the mining region; and Storey County,
Virginia City’s downtown.
“When the volunteers roll up their sleeves and get to work in
Virginia City, they will be experiencing first-hand the attractions
that are so important to this Nevada destination and that we want
them to help promote,” said Susan Sutton, executive director of the
Virginia City Convention and Tourism Authority. Tim Maland,
director of the Nevada Commission on Tourism added, “Having
Virginia City chosen for a historic restoration project of this
magnitude is a great gift that will enhance the town and expose the
entire region to travel professionals from across the country.”
The tourism community participants included tourism industry CEOs,
transportation executives, hoteliers, tour operators, travel agents
and presidents of convention and visitors bureaus, with the goal
that the exposure will prompt tourists to return to Virginia City
to continue the area’s restoration.
Tourism Cares for America’s past restoration projects include the
Mississippi Gulf Coast in 2006, George Washington’s Estate at Mount
Vernon in 2005, the St. Louis Cemetery, New Orleans, in 2004 and
the Ellis Island, New York/New Jersey, cleanup in 2003.