Like Austin, Eureka began as a mining town nestled in a mountain canyon. In 1864 prospectors fanning out from Austin discovered silver-lead ore, but its composition was such that it took nearly six years to devise a milling and smelting technology to refine the ore. Once the smelting process was improved, Eureka quickly became a boom town. By 1872 fifteen blast furnaces filled the canyon with smoke, amid the frenzy to produce more and more silver and gold. Many Italian and Swiss immigrants found employment as carbonari, skilled artisans who made charcoal to fuel the furnaces. In a few years the need for wood to fuel the smelters led local inhabitants to denude the mountains around Eureka. Although the smelters are gone, slag heaps around town are a reminder of Eureka's industrial past. Up the hill, west of Main Street, is the primary residential area with houses of wood and brick.Today Eureka retains many structures made of locally fired brick, as well as some stone and wood buildings. A number of the commercial and public buildings that line Main Street date from around 1880–1881, built after fires in 1879 and 1880. Mines developed in the 1980s and 1990s have brought tremendous prosperity to this county seat, generating a new wave of development seen in subdivisions of prefabricated houses and new schools on the edges of the old town. The town's population as of 1997 was 510. Like Austin, all of Eureka is contained within a National Register Historic District. The town and county, cognizant of the value of their old buildings, have spent millions in recent years to restore many of the most significant structures—one of the few attempts to develop heritage tourism in Nevada.
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