Despite its location near the geographic center of Nevada, Austin is far from just about everything. At one time it was a booming mining town that rivaled the silver production of Virginia City. In 1862 a former Pony Express rider familiar with the area discovered silver in Pony Canyon in the mountains near the Reese River Valley; Austin was founded in the canyon shortly thereafter. Within two years, 3,000 to 4,000 people lived in the town, occupying buildings of wood, adobe, brick, and stone. Even Virginia City's International Hotel was moved to Austin in 1863 (demolished 1873). Despite Austin's large population, railroads did not serve it until the arrival of the Northern Central in 1880, a little too late to capitalize on the once-thriving economy. The town's remoteness and lack of good transportation during its peak years prevented the construction of large or elaborate edifices.
Like other mid-nineteenth-century mining towns, Austin saw its boom end in the late 1870s. Since then, economic stagnation has helped preserve many of its historic buildings. Few new structures have been built, and with a population of 420 as of 1997, Austin seems almost a ghost town. The entire town is a National Register Historic District.
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