By Dennis Cassinelli
In a previous article, I wrote about an Anecdote of Sandy Bowers, probably the first and one of the most successful miners on the Comstock. He and his wife, Eilley Orrum Bowers became incredibly rich and decided to use their wealth to travel to Europe until contractors completed building a mansion in Washoe Valley for them while they were gone.
The contractor was instructed to build a mansion like no other and to spend as much as was needed to create the beautiful home for the couple to live in when they returned. The final cost of the mansion with furnishings was $ 407,000, ($6,735,000 today).
While on their trip to Europe, Sandy and Eilley bought expensive furnishing for the mansion and had ordered the contractor to use silver from Sandy’s mine to make silver doorknobs for the mansion. The property where the mansion was built had geothermal spring water that was used to fill large swimming pools. The front of the mansion faced the beautiful Washoe Valley and was surrounded by mature trees. Behind the mansion was a steep hillside that faced the Sierra Nevada Mountains. A large stone fountain faced the entry steps and was filled with goldfish.
When Sandy and Eilley returned to the to the mansion after being abroad between 1861 and 1863 they mysteriously brought home a young girl that they named Persia, after the name of the ship they had sailed home on. A road was constructed between Washoe Lake and little Washoe Lake that provided access from the mansion to Virginia City. Later on, the V&T Railroad was built from Carson City to Reno and Virginia City. It also extended to Gardnerville. Today Bowers Mansion can be reached by automobile on the Bowers Mansion Road.
Unfortunately, not long after the couple returned to live in the beautiful mansion, Sandy Bowers died on April 21,1868. After Sandy passed away from lung disease, Eilley Orrum Bowers made several renovations to the property. Having spent much of the family fortune extravagantly, she had to seek other ways to maintain the mansion and earn enough money to keep from losing the property. It was not long before the silver doorknobs were sold and many of the expensive furnishing they had purchased in Europe were sold.
Eilley had always been a fortune teller and she found she could make some money telling fortunes to wealthy clients. In a final effort to bring in more revenue, Mrs Bowere had a third story built above the mansion to use as a boarding house to rent out to wealthy visitors and tourists. This structure had many rooms and helped postpone the inevitable. Eilley Bowers died on October 27, 1903. Her ashes were returned to Nevada and buried in the cemetery on a hillside behind the mansion along with the remains of Sandy Bowers and Persia.
Today, Bowers Mansion is a regional park operated by Washoe County, Nevada. Due to many charitable donations, There have been major changes to the mansion. Many of the furnishings that had been sold have been replaced with period furniture. The third story rooming house was removed to make the mansion appear as it did when originally built. The hot spring swimming pools have been improved and updated with dressing rooms and other facilities.
For many years, Bowers Mansion was used by my own family and many others for swimming, picnics and recreation. The warm water pools are where I first learned to swim when visiting the the mansion during family picnics. We often hiked up the hill to visit the Bowers family Graves on the hillside overlooking Washoe Valley. The park is open seasonally (weekends and holidays), usually from Memorial Day through Nevada Day weekend. There is plenty of free parking nearby along with picnic tables, restrooms and other facilities.
This article is by Dayton Author and Historian, Dennis Cassinelli. You can order his books at a discount on his blog at denniscassinelli.com Just click on ”order books” Also from amazon as e-books.