First off, the hotel, which is the oldest continuously operated in Nevada, is reached by driving south through Virginia City to the town of Gold Hill. If you don’t go up via the Geiger Grade, you may opt to drive through Carson City, left on Highway 50 then left on State Route 341, which turns into State Route 342 through Silver City and then to Gold Hill and the Hotel.
From the outside, the Hotel looks every bit its age. However, you’re pleasantly surprised by the meticulously renovated interior, the feature of which is the Crown Point Dining Room. On first entering the ground floor there is a spacious lounge area which is converted into a miniature theatre in which the speakers perform. The adjacent bar area reeks of the famed Comstock mining era. Also surprising is the high quality modernization of the Hotel rooms.
On Friday night, March 3, the evening featured a full-course dinner and presentation by Frank X. Mullen, who gave a spectacular performance about the two literary giants of the Comstock; Mark Twain and Dan DeQuille. If you selected the entire package, you got it for the unusually low sum of $25, and if you wanted to attend the presentation only, it cost you $10.
Following dinner, the lounge area was packed as Mullen began his presentation. Clad in a black outfit topped by a short stovepipe hat, Mullen resembled a ghost of years past. As with many gifted speakers, Mullen had the ability to change the cadence and timbre of his voice as he delivered his speech. That occurred when he changed his narrative from commentary to reading excerpts from publications that had been written by Twain and DeQuille.
From Mullen’s point of view, he thought that of the two themed newspaper men, DeQuille would have been the one to gain more fame than Twain. Since both of the men were adept at creating humorous fictional tales for the Territorial Enterprise on slow news days, their tall tales offered more interesting reading than the true news stories. Many of those “fake news” stories were pointed jibes at one another. As a matter of fact, if you happened to be alive during those halcyon days of yore, you would probably consider DeQuille to be the better reporter and funnier writer, according to Mullen.
In addition to being co-workers, drinking buddies and scourges of the town, they were also roommates.
Twain’s time was brief on the Comstock, while DeQuille stayed for some 30 years. Mullen urges everyone to read DeQuille’s epic history entitled “The Big Bonanza” if they wish to learn of many of the events that occurred in Virginia City in the nineteenth century.
Mullen himself is a Reno-based investigative journalist, author, university instructor and Chautauqua scholar. He was accompanied at the Gold Hill event by his wife, Susan Skorupa, a superior journalist in her own right.