04 Jul The Bowers Mansion
The Bowers Mansion, in rural Washoe County between Reno and Carson City, stands as a reminder of how fortunes were made and lost with the Comstock bonanza. Lemuel S. “Sandy” and Eilley Orrum Bowers were probably the first millionaires produced by the fabulous find in Gold Canyon.
As strangers, they had adjoining claims. After a rich vein was struck, they were soon married and had the mansion built.
The mansion was the fulfillment of Eilley’s dreams of prestige and respectability when it was completed in 1864. The Bowers employed stonecutters from Scotland for the construction of their new home, which eventually cost $400,000 to build, an exorbitant sum in the 1860s. Eilley and Sandy toured Europe purchasing furniture, statuary, painting and other adornments for their home.
Misfortune followed fortune and soon all was lost. The richness of their vein gave out; a new mill was destroyed; financiers balked. Then Sandy died in 1868.
Eilley struggled on, finally, in 1878, losing the mansion by foreclosure. Ultimately, Eilley went blind and deaf. Impoverished, she died in 1903 in California.
The building was restored in 1967 and is now owned by the Washoe County Parks Department. Tours of the mansion are given in summer and autumn.
From the Nevada State Historic Preservation Office and the National Park Service.
VR by Reynolds School of Journalism student Courtney Law (2007)
Click the red hotspots to enter the Bowers Mansion in virtual reality.