The Gold Hill Hotel is Nevada’s oldest hotel (how fun is that?!) We shared its early history a few weeks ago, in Part 1 of this story. Today, new owners Tony and Jill Clough are continuing the tradition . . . and putting their own stamp on the history of this special place!
It was late 2020 when Tony and Jill stumbled across an internet listing for the hotel. Tony was a I.T. tech and Jill had been a teacher for over twenty years. Natives of New York State, they were looking for new horizons, and initially searched for opportunities closer to home. Oddly enough, it was COVID that expanded their horizons.
“We realized that it really doesn’t matter where you live,” explains Tony. “You can still see your family from anywhere, even if it’s just with a Zoom call.” So they broadened their search to other regions that intrigued them, like Nevada and Texas. Before long, the Gold Hill Hotel listing popped up.
“We flew out in December 2020 to take a look,” Tony explains. “It was a bit like [the TV show] ‘Undercover Boss’ at first – we came in for a weekend, sat down, ate, came to the bar just like ordinary customers, so we could check it out. They didn’t know who we were. We also went to Virginia City, talked to businesses and chatted with owners there.”
They fell in love with both the building and its history. And on April 3, 2021, the Cloughs became the owners of the old hotel. The timing was awful; COVID was still raging. But in a way, even that was fortuitous. “We might never have gotten the price we did, otherwise,” Tony shrugs.
For the Cloughs, there’s a sense it was all “meant to be.” Mark Twain used to frequent the bar in the old Gold Hill hotel, and Twain’s grave is located in Western New York near where the Cloughs used to live. “We’d been to his grave,” Tony smiles. “And now we’re here!”
There was little time for formal training once the transaction closed. The Cloughs spent only two weeks working with the previous owners. Luckily, both Tony and Jill had had previous experience in the food industry during their college days, and Tony had spent ten years as a retail manager. So customer service, ordering and staff management weren’t new skills for them.
It’s been a big change, but the Cloughs love it. Jill runs the hotel’s day-to-day operations. Tony still works his I.T. job five days a week, but spends nights and weekends assisting at the hotel. “We really like the Nevada lifestyle – it’s a much slower pace than New York, and the weather is perfect,” Tony grins. “It’s sunny here, even in December. We were used to six months of the year when you don’t even see the sun.”
The Cloughs have made a few changes, but the hotel’s operation is much the same as when they took over. The Gold Hill Hotel retains its “claim to fame” as the only full-service hotel/restaurant/bar in Virginia City. “People sometimes rent the whole hotel for birthdays or weddings. People can stay here and eat here, without having to leave,” Tony explains. “And we have shuttle service to Virginia City and back if you don’t want to drive.”
Upstairs, the four rooms in the “historic section” boast original brass bedsteads and period colors. (Another eight rooms are also available in the more modern wing of the hotel, added in 1988-89.)
The Cloughs’ biggest surprise as the hotel’s new owners? “The number of people who come specifically for the paranormal,” Tony replies without hesitation. “They ask specifically for rooms in the historic section or the miner’s cabin – where people have experienced paranormal things in the past.”
Two of the most popular rooms are found in the historic section, dating to 1869. Legend has it that a prostitute name Rosie passed away in Room 4. Guests who stay there say they sometimes smell perfume or roses in the middle of the night. And a miner named William reportedly died in Room 5, where visitors have been known to detect faint traces of a long-ago cigar.
The Cloughs have experienced a few strange things in the hotel themselves. “I was standing at the end of the bar one time, and watched a glass slide down the length of the bar, hop off and end up on the ground. That sort of thing happens frequently,” Tony smiles. “And my wife had a broom in her hand and went to stand it up in the corner, and it fell down. She stood it up again, and it fell down. She finally said, ‘OK, I know you are here, now let it stay!’ – and it stayed up.”
For those who might like to experience a bit of the paranormal themselves, the hotel offers a dinner/ghost tour package on alternating Thursdays, conducted by Jadene and Jill of the Northern Nevada Ghost Hunters.
There’s also a popular lecture series on first and third Thursdays, with fascinating talks by local historians, authors and speakers. Tickets are $10; for topics, check the calendar of events on their website, https://goldhillhotel.net. Or sign up for their newsletter if you’d like to stay on top of coming events.
The food at the Gold Hill’s “Crown Point” restaurant is some of the best on the Comstock, featuring top-notch steaks, a delightful French onion soup, and seafood specialties like cioppino thanks to chef Rebecca Jones. The V&T even stops right behind the hotel, so riders can visit the hotel for lunch or brunch. The restaurant is open for dinner Monday and Thursday through Saturday, from 4:30 – 8:30 p.m., and Sunday from 9 a.m. -1 p.m. There’s a “Miner’s Monday” on the first Monday of every month, with special pricing and a taco buffet.
And of course there’s the bar, just off the Great Room where Mark Twain used to hang out. The hotel’s signature drink: a “Dead Mule,” made with Cemetery Gin. Even if you don’t take a sip, be sure to ask to see the bottle.