Status: Active Town
Current Population: 340
Peak Population: 10,000
Elevation: 6,605 ft.
Primary Mineral: Silver
Named for Austin, Texas, Austin was founded in 1862, as part of a silver rush reputedly triggered by a Pony Express horse who kicked over a rock. By summer 1863, the Austin and the surrounding Reese River Mining District had a population of over 10,000, and it became the county seat of Lander County (the seat was shifted to Battle Mountain in 1997).
The Nevada Central Railroad was built to connect Austin with the transcontinental railroad at Battle Mountain in 1880. However, by that time the boom was almost over. Major silver production ended by 1887, although there was a slight revival in the 1910s. In the mid 1950s there was a great deal of interest in uranium deposits in the area, but the ore proved to be of low quality. Gold and silver mining has continued in the area sporadically and at generally low levels of production. High quality turquoise is still mined in the area in small quantities. This active turquoise mining, together with several shops that manufacture jewelry from local turqoise have made Austin a sort of Nevada Turquoise mecca.
Today Austin is a "living ghost town", a well-preserved example of an early Nevada mining town. It contains three churches; the Catholic church and the Methodist church were both built in 1866. The Methodist Church is now used as a community center. The Catholic church, St. Augustine's, has been purchased and is being restored as a cultural center for Central Nevada. The Episcopal church, considered by some to be the prettiest frontier church still standing, was built in 1878 and is still in regular use. The International Hotel, first built in Virginia City in 1859 and moved to Austin in 1863 still serves meals and drinks, but does not rent out rooms (there is a motel across the street). The International Hotel is said to be the oldest in Nevada. Austin contains numerous other historical buildings, in various states of repair.
Stokes Castle, a strange three-story stone tower, is located just outside of town. It was built in 1897 by Anson Phelps Stokes, a wealthy eastern capitalist who had a financial interest in several of the local mines. It was only occupied for a month, and then fell into disrepair.