St. Mary’s Art Center

Virginia City, NV

St. Mary’s Art Center History

St. Mary’s Art Center, a National Historic Landmark, was formerly known as the St. Mary Louise Hospital. Built in 1875 by the Daughters of Charity and Father Patrick Manogue, this four-story, gabled, red brick structure with Doric columns sits on land donated by Mary Louise Mackay, wife of one of the four Bonanza Kings. After the decline of the Gold Rush, the building was left abandoned until 1964 when Father Meinecke reclaimed the building and dedicated it to arts and culture in the community. Since then, the St. Mary’s has been through many renditions including a workshop space, retreat center, hotel, ghost tour location and artist residency space.

Virginia City and the Comstock

“The 19th century mining bonanza turned Virginia City into the most important industrial city between Denver and San Francisco, and it turned destitute prospectors from all over the world into millionaires. They built mansions, hospitals, churches, opera houses and schools, and imported furniture, fashions, and entertainment from Europe and the Orient. They helped finance the Civil War, and went on to build empires around the world. Among the finest examples is San Francisco, a city built with Comstock silver.

The Ophir, Gould, Curry and Consolidated Virginia mines— those consisting of the “Big Bonanza” of 1873—brought out at least $300 million in mineral deposits and made telecommunications giant John Mackay a virtual overnight millionaire. While the Virginia Truckee Railroad transported bullion from the rural highlands of Virginia City to Carson City, the Territorial Enterprise, with literary whiz Mark Twain, delivered news of the day to the vibrant mining metropolis of 25,000 citizens at its peak. The spirits of the people of the “Queen of the Comstock” still haunt the places where they lived, worked, played, learned, and died. Mining was a hard way to make a living, with 100-degree temperatures 3,000 feet down a mine shaft that required deep concentration from the person at the helm of the elevator.

Away from work, the people of the Comstock enjoyed performances at Piper’s Opera House, which still stands today as a favorite for events and weddings. The citizens also played baseball as a favorite pastime, and unwound after a long day at Virginia City’s many saloons that topped twenty-two at one point. Many attended school, with the Fourth Ward School once educating grammar and high school students. It is now considered a must stop on the driving tour of museums and attractions south of town. Virginia City comstockers are buried in the cemetery with stories told to this day, and tombstone messages reflect their unconventional lives. The history and stories of Virginia City are as unique, rich, and colorful as the streets and buildings themselves. One must see Virginia City to even remotely understand it.”


Sierra Nevada College
Interdisciplinary Arts
Low Residency MFA


1008 Tahoe Blvd
Incline Village, NV 89451


Julia Schwadron
Assistant Program Director
P: (775) 831-1314 ext. 7492


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