Border To Border

Tiny McGill (pop. 1,148), 128 miles south of I-80 and 12 miles northeast of Ely, is the classic Nevada company town, its workaday life revolving for the first 50 years of the 20th century around a giant copper smelter. Kennecott Minerals mining company officials lived in the fancy houses around the “Circle” at the top of the hill just below the factory, while workers were housed according to their ethnic origins. The saloon and jail were conveniently built right next door to each other, and steam from the copper furnaces was piped to heat the town’s houses. The company has been gone for more than 30 years, but the layout remains, along with acres of fenced-off brick factory buildings painted with fading signs encouraging workers to behave safely. A few of McGill’s buildings have been converted to current uses, but most are closed and quite forlorn.

One semi-survivor along this short stretch of US-93 is the McGill Drugstore Museum (11 4th St., 775/235-7082 or 775/235-7276, open by appointment or good luck), closed since the 1970s but preserved as an ad hoc museum under the care of the White Pine Public Museum in neighboring Ely. If you can’t arrange a tour, peer in through the windows at a soda fountain and shelves stocked full of Nixon-era merchandise and old uniforms from McGill High School marching bands.