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Carson City

the capital of Nevada

location of Carson City

Population (2010 census) 55,274
Area 146 square miles


The first European-Americans to visit the site of what is now Carson City were a party of explorers led by John C. Frémont, in January 1843. Frémont named the river flowing through the valley for "Kit" Carson, his scout for the expedition. The first settlement grew up around Eagle Station Ranch, a trading post and stop-over on the California Trail's Carson Branch, beginning about 1851.

In 1858, Abraham Curry and a group of partners bought Eagle Station and surrounding lands for $500 and a herd of horses, and platted a townsite called Carson City. Although the area was part of Utah Territory at the time, Curry expected it to become part of a new state and made it a point to leave a 10-acre plot in the center of the town for a state capitol building. Curry's expectations began to take form after discovery of the Comstock Lode in 1859, after which the population of the town and valley boomed. Nevada Territory, with Carson City as capital, was organized in 1861, and the city became the capital of the State of Nevada upon admission on October 31, 1864.

The Comstock Lode and subsequent mining operations brought thousands of settlers into the Carson City area. The growth of Carson City was further spurred by completion of the Virginia & Truckee Railroad between Carson City and Virginia City in 1869. The line was extended to connect with the Transcontinental Railroad at Reno in 1872, allowing for even more growth. The U. S. Mint opened a branch in Carson City in 1870, and it struck gold and silver coins until 1893. The growth stopped, however, after the Comstock and other mines played out and the miners (and associated businesses) moved elsewhere. By 1930 the city'spopulation had shrunk to just over 1,500, making it the smallest state capital by population in the country.

As with much of Nevada, Carson City's fortunes began increasing again after World War II, and by 1960 the city has reached its 1880's boom-time population. On April 1, 1969, the city merged with Ormsby County, of which it had been the seat, to form the Consolidated Municipality of Carson City. That merger stripped Carson City of its "smallest capital city by population" status, while making it one of the largest by area.


The service industry, which includes hotels, gaming, and tourism, is the largest employer in Carson City, followed by the government sector, retail trade, and manufacturing. Items produced in Carson City include calculators and computers, refurbished aircraft turbines, retail display furniture, plastic moldings, plumbing supplies, fiberglass light poles, aerospace components, and welding accessories.

Transportation into and out of Carson City is served by U. S. Route 395, U. S. Route 50, and Interstate 580, and by the Carson City Airport.

Sites and Attractions

The current Nevada State Capitol building was constructed between 1870 and 1871, making it the second oldest capitol building west of the Mississippi River. Its most prominent feature is a silver cupola, the top of which is 120 feet above ground.

Nevada State Capitol

Located in the former Nevada State Mint building, the Nevada State Museum houses exhibits covering Nevada's natural and cultural history from prehistoric times through to today. Exhibits of special interest include Ichthyosaur fossils, a replica of a working mine, complete with 300 feet of tunnel, and equipment used by the U. S. Mint during the city's boom years.

Nevada State Museum
Nevada State Museum

Carson City
Carson City Chamber of Commerce
Carson City Culture & Tourism Authority

John C. Frémont
"Kit" Carson
Comstock Lode

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The Robinson Library >> Nevada

This page was last updated on June 21, 2018.