|Michelangelo Wasn't Here|
A discovery of an outcropping of snow-white marble in the mountains southeast of the gold town of Rhyolite, Nevada, near Death Valley in early 1904 led to the founding of the small community known as Carrara. Peering into the gaping maw of the long-abandoned quarry, one can see some small veins of marble similar to that used by famous sculptors like Michelangelo and quarried from the northern Apennines in Italy. Unfortunately for the investors of the American Carrara Marble Company formed in June 1912, much of the marble found at the site proved to be of insufficient quality to reap a bonanza of wealth.
Between 1911 and 1913 the Company laid out a townsite that featured a town fountain, hotel and store. Water for the town and for the milling operation was piped in from nearby Gold Center and " The Carrara Pacific," a three-mile Lidger cable tram system, was built to tie in with the Las Vegas & Tonopah Railroad. This tram used the weight of full cars coming down the hill to pull empty rail cars up the hill. There was a wide section at the halfway point of the track that allowed the cars headed up the hill to pass those on the downward path. It operated much like a pendulum on a cuckoo clock. On April 7, 1914, the first slabs of marble were shipped from the quarry. After the LV & T railroad ceased operating in1917, a spur from the Tonopah and Tidewater Railroad, owned by the Pacific Coast Borax (of Twenty Mule Team fame) was built to accommodate shipping from The Carrara Pacific. During Carrara's heyday, it boasted a town of nearly 100 residents, with its own newspaper and post office. By September 1919 the marble was determined to be too fractured to be profitable and the quarry was closed. Most of the remaining population was gone by 1924.
Today, much of this ghost town has been reclaimed by the desert, but it is still possible to find the empty town fountain, septic seepage pits, a community stone fireplace and some rock wall foundations of the old hotel and some of the outbuildings. The road to the quarry follows the path of the old Carrara Pacific tram and is very steep. Mark Holloway cheerfully transported Megan, Marvin, and me in his four-wheel drive pickup (350,000 miles and still going strong!) to the site of the old quarry. The remaining exposed marble is reminiscent of a Greek temple and a majestic spot to sit and view the striking desert scenery. Despite the presence of the quarry it seems like the land has changed little since the time of the "Clovis People," ancestors of the Shoshone, Paiute and Kawaiisu people who lived in the area as far back as eleven thousand years ago.
The turnoff for Carrara is located at Nye County mile marker 51 on US 95. The foundations for the mill are near the turnoff, and the townsite is about three hundred yards to the northeast. Some cement structures about a mile north of Carrara are the remains of the abandoned Elizalde Cement Company plant that was built in the early 1930's.
(Research thanks to: David Wright, Great Basin Research; Mark Holloway, Beatty, NV; Alan Baltazar)