Established in 1861, Storey County was one of the original nine counties in Nevada. Located south to southeast of Reno, Storey is a short drive from the Reno/Sparks Metropolitan Area. The northern border of the county is home to the US-80, which also extends through the Lockwood and Clark communities. Virginia City, the county seat, can be accessed from State Route 341 in the southern portion of the county alongside Gold Hill. At 264 square miles, Storey is the smallest county in Nevada in terms of land area. With the addition of the Tesla Gigafactory and the growth of manufacturing and warehousing industries in Storey, jobs within the county far outpace the population of 3,891 (DETR, 2017).
Storey first began as a mining town when gold was discovered around Mount Davidson; similarly, silver was found in the Comstock lode (as it’s fondly referred to). Comstock, which encompasses the incorporated cities of Gold Hill and Virginia City, soon became the prototype of frontier mining “boomtowns.” George R. Witters, a collector, dealer, and Comstock historian, said that the discovery of the lode was “a long time in coming.” Emigrants had previously paused along the trail and found traces of gold, but the discovery of silver ore resulted in men averaging $20 in earnings per day (roughly $627.65 in 2020). Although early mining methods were “extremely crude” (due to the orebody being exposed in wide trenches to allow for the quickest extraction), the Comstock mines flourished. Following the discoveries in 1859, Virginia City laid its first street named Storey County History.
The county was established in 1861, being named for Captain Edward Farris Storey, who was killed during the Pyramid Lake War in 1860. At that time, Storey County was recognized as the most populated county in Nevada. By 1865, a large business section was developed and later in 1869 the railroad was built through Storey.
With the decline in mining production came the decline in Storey population; however, Storey has prospered into further developments such as the brief, open pit mining resurgence in the early 20th century and the tourism boom in the 1950s. Today, Virginia City’s Historic District attracts visitors to take part in festivities and tours that celebrate Storey’s tradition as pioneer town.
In present day, the northeastern corner of Storey County houses one of the nation’s largest industrial complexes that includes companies such as Tesla, Wal-Mart, eBay, Switch, PetSmart, Google, Chewy.com and more than 115 other businesses of varying sizes. Some entities accessible from USA Parkway (State Route 439), a primary transportation route, operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Landscape and Climate
Much of Storey sits well above sea level. At the county seat in Virginia City, elevation is over 6,000 feet with the county’s highest peak reaching 7,864 feet at Mount Davidson. On average, Storey sees 19 inches of rain per year, and 114 inches of snow (Best Places, n.d.). Similar to much of Nevada, the county land coverage falls heavily into the Shrubland (58%) and Grassland (30%) categories (NASA MODIS, 2006). These areas are described as having warm, dry summers with cold winters. The Flowery Range runs along the eastern part of the county and bolsters peaks such as Tibbie, Rocky, and Flowery. Part of the Virginia Range covers the southwestern portion of the county and houses Mt. Davidson and Mt. Bullion.
Water makes up just 0.7 square miles in Storey, with no major bodies to be explored. The Truckee River runs along the northern border, which accounts for much of the water found within the county. Lousetown and Long Valley Creeks run north to south and can be found near Washington’s central location in Storey. July tends to be the hottest month for Storey with an average high temperature of 81.0 degrees Fahrenheit; due to this, Storey County tends to rank as one of the coolest places in Nevada throughout the summer (Best Places, n.d.).
Community and Events
Storey County’s rich mining history is reflected in the number of yearly events and day-to-day opportunities that allow people to experience the past and present in Storey. Many of these events can be found at the county seat in Virginia City. The saloons, which run along C Street, have occupied their original spaces since the late 1800s. In particular, the Delta Saloon, which was built in 1865, is one of the oldest and most historic in Virginia City. The Gold Hill Saloon, which first began as The Riesen House, occupies the south and is considered the oldest operating hotel in Nevada. At least a dozen more watering holes dating back to the late 1800s still stand within the county’s communities.
Each year visitors travel to Virginia City to experience the town’s various events. In the spring, when the weather is breaking, the Street Vibrations Spring Rally attracts motorcycle enthusiasts from neighboring communities. The Fourth of July Parade and Fireworks Spectacular takes place on C Street, which celebrates our nation’s independence; these are among the 10 parades that occur in town each year. Usually held in May, the Chili on the Comstock event runs for two consecutive days for the past 30 years.
For those looking to explore local history, Storey is home to mining tours, ghost towns, museums, and train expeditions. Chollar Mine and the Comstock Gold Mill still operate tours from May to October. Historical ties are strong in Storey and can be explored at the Comstock History Center, Courthouse Slammer and County Museum, and the Mark Twain Museum at the Territorial Enterprise. The V&T Railroad still offers round trip, weekend tours from Virginia City to Gold Hill and an extended route from Carson City to Virginia City giving riders a glimpse at the natural beauty Storey County, and the surrounding area, hold.
Population, Gender, Age, Race and Ethnicity:
Storey County population decreased by 3.1% from 2010-2017. The largest portion of this decrease came in the year 2017 (-4.1%). The county male population decreased by 1.5 percentage points from 2010-2017. Median age in Storey County increased by 8.3 years from 2010-2017. The largest year-to-year change came in 2011 when median age jumped from 46.4 to 50.4. The White population in Storey County increased by 1.4 percentage points from 2010-2017 up to 86.7%. Hispanics make-up the second largest group in the county as of 2017 at 6.7%.
Households, Families, and Housing:
The number of households and families in Storey decreased from 2010-2017. Families decreased by 24.4% while households decreased by 8.8% during these years. Storey median housing unit value decreased by 30% from 2010-2017. The largest year-to-year decrease came in 2013, when median housing unit value dropped $32,302. Renter occupied households over tripled from 2012-2017. The largest year-to-year change came in 2015, when renter occupancy increased by 5.4%.
The Storey veteran population decreased by 31.3% from 2010-2017. Both male and female veteran populations saw a decrease during this time. All age groups between 35-75 years of age decreased, while those 18-34 increased by 139.9%.
For the complete report, including more demographics, social, economic, land use, and fiscal characteristics, use the link below to download the PDF version.