Once a thriving company town, McGill has struggled to survive since the closing of the Kennecott Copper plant in the late 1970s. The smelter (built 1907–1908) with its 750-foot-tall smokestack is gone, but much of the town's fabric remains. The Nevada Consolidated Copper Company (NCCC) laid out the townsite in 1906; by 1910, 2,000 employees lived and worked in McGill in a rigid hierarchy based on rank in the company and ethnicity.
The NCCC used the relative quality of buildings as a means to distinguish higher-ranking employees from those of lower status. The first permanent houses for high-level employees were erected in mid-1907. A cluster of administrative buildings and five large houses stands on a hill above a park in an area called The Circle. South of this area was Upper Town, for salaried employees and their families, who lived in concrete-block houses. By 1909 the company had completed construction of its industrial complex and had established a commercial district along 4th Street (U.S. 93), known as Middle Town. The residential areas known as the Lower Town, where workers' wood-frame dormitories and mess halls stood, had also been built. Finally, the company established separate ethnic communities for “foreigners”— Jap Town and Austrian Town (including Serb, Croatian, and other Slavs), located on the east side of 4th Street, at the north end of McGill, and Greek Town at the south end of town—thus institutionalizing segregation as a way to manage its employees. In 1955 Kennecott Copper, which had taken over the NCCC's operations in 1933, sold off all townsite house lots, ending total company ownership of McGill.
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