International Hotel

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The International Hotel

The International Hotel was the name given to a series of hotels in Virginia City, built between the years of 1860 and 1877. The third hotel, when it opened, was the largest and most opulent hotel in the state of Nevada.


First Years

The first International Hotel was little more than a log cabin. Partners Isaac Bateman and Andrew Paul built a wooden one-story, 12-room hotel at the corner of B Street and Union in 1860, just as Virginia City was beginning to enter its boom years. Over the next couple of years, as the true extent of the Comstock Lode was uncovered, Virginia City's population started to explode. This rush of new people soon overwhelmed the small International Hotel, so in 1862 Bateman and Paul started work on a new International, located just a bit downhill at the corner of C Street and Union. This second International was built of brick, three stories high, and had room for many more people. The International was instantly popular, so much so that a year later, in 1863, the original log cabin was dismantled and shipped to Austin, 170 miles east. There it was rebuilt and reopened as the International Hotel of Austin, creating one of Nevada's first hotel chains. This hotel still stands today. [1]

Second International

Back in Virginia City, Bateman and Paul immediately used the empty land at B and Union to start building an addition to the International Hotel. This back part of the hotel was also made of brick, and four stories high. Now the International stretched all the way from C Street to B Street, and patrons could easily exit out the back door and jog across the street to catch a performance at Piper's Opera House. For the next 12 years this International Hotel stood at the heart of downtown, serving as a place to stay, a restaurant, and the offices of the California Stage Company.

The Second International Hotel

Fire and Third International

October 26, 1875, was a fateful day for all of Virginia City, the International Hotel included. That was the day an oil lamp was knocked over in a boarding house on A Street, sparking the Great Fire of 1875. It didn't take long for the flames to spread all the way through downtown, and Piper's Opera House and the International Hotel both were destroyed in the fire. By May of the next year, replacements for both establishments were under construction.

In 1877 work was complete, and the third International Hotel was able to opens its doors on March 31st. This new building took up the whole lot from C Street to B Street that the previous two buildings had occupied, and stood six stories high. The hotel had distinctive arched windows on all floors, balconies on the second and third floors, and was topped by a Mansard Roof. There was a restaurant entrance on the side, and the rear entrance on B Street that provided access to Piper's Opera House was retained. The hotel also had gas lighting on the day it opened, and included a hydraulic elevator, the first elevator in Nevada.

The "back door" of the International Hotel, facing B Street and Piper's Opera House.

This new International was the showcase of Virginia City, and the most luxurious hotel in the state. It was all set to usher in a new era of prosperity in Virginia City. But it was not to be. Even as workmen were putting the finishing touches on the new hotel, the famed mines of the Comstock were beginning to play out. In just a few years it was becoming apparent that there would be no new silver strikes in Virginia City, and the boom came to a sharp end.

Decline and Destruction

The International settled into life as a hotel that was too big and too fancy for the town. Most residents had left, and few people had a reason to visit. There was some excitement in 1900 when the town, and the hotel, were wired for electricity, but mostly the 20th century came in with a whimper.

Many of the old historic buildings in Virginia City fell into disrepair, but most of them were able to hold on until the late 1900s when a tourist boom brought the town, and its buildings back to prominence. The International Hotel wasn't so lucky. On the morning of December 12, 1914, a Chinese cook went to the kitchen around 5am to get breakfast started. When he arrived he found smoke and flames, and ran to raise a general alarm. The hotel by this point was so deserted that there were only a dozen people in the building that needed to be roused and evacuated. Everyone got out safely and the fire department arrived on the scene, but they found the fire hydrants in the area were frozen shut. By the time they were able to work around that problem and finally put water on the flames, it was too late to save the International. All firefighters could do was stop the conflagration from spreading to neighboring buildings, especially the adjacent buildings on C Street and Piper's Opera House right across the street. In the end all the other buildings were spared, but the International Hotel was little more than a smoking hole in the ground.

Present Day

The site of the International Hotel

After the fire, and as the debris was being cleared away, talk was passed around of rebuilding the International yet again. But there just weren't enough visitors to Virginia City to justify a new hotel of that size. So the site remained empty. Today it is home to a parking lot, still an empty hole in the middle of town.

In 1998 there was talk again about reviving the International Hotel name and attaching it to a new hotel being built at the north end of town. That project never came to bear. So the only International Hotel left standing is the first one, and that one can't even be found in Virginia City, only in Austin.


Further Reading

  • Elegance on C Street, Virginia City's International Hotel (1977) by Richard C. Datin

External Links