The ruins of the United Comstock Merger Mill at American Flat were demolished in late 2014. The working life of this cyanide-processing operation, once the largest in the country, began in 1922 and ended just four years later with the collapse in the price of silver. All salvageable equipment and building materials were removed soon afterward. The eight buildings on the site slowly decayed, but provided an engaging post-apocalyptic setting for graffiti artists, photographers, and airsoft warriors. For many growing up in the area the site served as a favored coming-of-age venue for escaping parental authority.

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Drag within the panorama to navigate. For the most detail, click the “full screen” button at the right of the toolbar. To use the interactive map, which allows direct access to some nodes, click the “M” button in the toolbar. For a telephoto virtual-reality view from the southwest, click here. For a 1920s panorama of the site, click here.

The virtual-reality tour of this vanished corner of Comstock history was commissioned by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), and photographed from August to December of 2014. There are 137 interconnected VR panoramas in the tour, including multiple views of the eight mill buildings, historical panoramic photographs, and panoramas made during the demolition process. The tour extends to the modern Comstock Mining operations and the V&T Railroad depot in Gold Hill.

In 2018 the BLM released a documentary video about the history of the mill: The American Flat Mill: Icon of the Comstock.

If you would like to view the virtual tour of the American Flat Mill using a head-mounted device (e.g. Google Cardboard or Oculus Rift), click here.

There are 42 historical photographs, one audio, and two videos embedded within the VR tour. The photographs are also in the gallery below. They are used courtesy of: Joe Curtis Collection; Nevada Historical Society; and Special Collections, University of Nevada, Reno Libraries. Embedded videos are used courtesy of Mike Davis (BLM). Research Assistant: Jeri Chadwell.

 

Showing 7 comments
  • Timothy Johnson
    Reply

    This was one of my favorite places on the planet. When I first moved to this area the first really good friend I made was so excited to take me there and show me the place for the first time.I can’t tell you how many times I felt the same way showing other people American flats for the first time. When I became a parent I took my children. Going there was much more than just a rite of passage. Due to the decay of natural processes gradually reclaiming the site and human impact through art and other means it was different every time I went there. It had an evolving life of its own and I found parallels in my own life of passing time, change, aging, the natural world, the man-made world, I felt a spiritual connection with the place and with others who have been there.there were potentially hazardous things there but no more so than the hazardous things you would encounter leaving your home and going to the grocery store. If you’re not paying attention you can die crossing the street. The heightened awareness that is needed when exploring such places is part of what makes it an intensely enriching experience. One of the most beautiful and unique things about the place is it had not been made safe it was not controlled there were no rules no redundant safety devices to protect us from ourselves. Unfortunately the federal government seem to think it is its duty to protect us from ourselves and somehow justify their salaries in the process. American flats belonged to the people of Nevada not the federal overlords. They destroyed an important cultural resource simply because they had nothing better to do.let me make it clear that I bear no ill-will to the federal employees involved they are decent people, they are nevadans and I do not believe there was any malicious intent on their part. The problem lies in the policies of bureaucrats out of touch with reality they have no connection with this place.it is sad that my children will not be able to take their children to American flatsbut there are many other awesome wonderous beautiful places to experience in Nevada and the sense of curiosity wonder and adventure that I have shared with them will lead them there. And hopefully you too!

  • Mindy Dallas
    Reply

    Returned to Nevada in 2013, after many years away, and saw American Flats before it was demolished. So glad I did! It was a lawsuit waiting to happen, but, all the same, a really interesting place. So, I’m very glad that BLM has assembled this wonderful website to document how it was in 2014 and how it looked when it started up.

  • Krys Blackwood
    Reply

    I grew up running around the flats. I can’t count the number of times we drove out there as teenagers at night, looking for the “blue lady” ghost (we never saw her) or did photo shoots in the ruins. This place was so special to us.
    Thank you SO much for putting up this archive of photos and VR. I’m bookmarking it, and I hope it never goes away. It’s the only thing that remains of my teenage wonderland!

  • marsha greer
    Reply

    i explored this site in 1987. it had started to be an expressive site for artists and was fascinating. i grew up in tahoe and my nephew, then 22, was obsessed with AF. i’m so happy he took me there (and my 5 yr old at the time daughter). she still remembers going. i was saddened to hear of its’ demolition in 2014 but i understand why the BLM felt they had to.

  • Eric
    Reply

    Miss the flats! Thank you so much for this piece of history!

  • Rene'
    Reply

    Thank you so much this peek into history that some of us missed now that the site has been demolished. What a wonderful collection of photographs. Well done!

  • Jesse
    Reply

    Thanks for sharing this, I was saddened to discover that the Flats were being demolished as I was in the area, but I did not know they were there until I returned home and researched more about the area!

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