Linear features connect the towns of central Nevada in much the same way that the towns of the northern region are linked. In the nineteenth century the Pony Express and Overland Trail routes carried mail and immigrants across the state. In the twentieth century U.S. 50 linked central Nevada (from Baker in the west to Stateline in the east) with the rest of the country. As many of the region's towns developed around mines, the trails and roads shifted to pass through them.
Of the routes across the region, U.S. 50 provides the most vivid impression of the basin-and-range landscape. The highway crosses several mountain ranges, passing through piñon pine and juniper and dipping down into narrow valleys watered by small rivers. Unlike the Emigrant Trail–Central Pacific–I-80 corridor to the north, U.S. 50 never had a railroad stage of development. Central Nevada's relative isolation has prevented its four main towns, Fallon, Austin, Eureka, and Ely, from attracting large populations. Because U.S. 50—dubbed the “Loneliest Road in America” by Nevada's Commission on Tourism in the 1980s—still passes through the center of each town, main streets remain intact, lined with banks, hotels, churches, schools, and public buildings.
The isolation also kept architecture relatively modest. Only public buildings, large commercial structures, and the occasional house were designed by architects. The difficulty of obtaining wood in Austin, Eureka, and Ely led builders to use locally fired brick and locally quarried stone. As mining towns, these three places have had their economic ups and downs, but each has always retained a small core population that has survived until the next upswing in mining activity. Fallon is an anomaly in the region, an agricultural community created by one of the federal government's first reclamation projects. Its stability and proximity to Reno, Carson City, and California allowed builders to obtain lumber, so Fallon has a greater variety of structures than do the other towns in the region.
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