Between 1866 and 1875, a remarkable business thrived directly behind this building. Free-born William A.G. Brown operated his Boston saloon, serving Virginia City’s African Americans. Archaeologists have revealed that brown offered his customers finely prepared meals with the best cuts of meat. Shortly after Brown sold his business, the great fire of 1875 swept through town and destroyed the building.
There were rarely more than one hundred African Americans living in Virginia City, but they played varied and important roles in the community. Some African Americans pursued work as laborers, porters, and barbers. Others became affluent business owners, and a prominent doctor won widespread respect. By the 1870’s, African American children attended integrated schools.
Prejudicial laws and racism placed hurtful restrictions on the African Americans of Nevada. Fortunately, a prevalent pro-union, anti-slavery attitude improved the lives of many African Americans who helped build Virginia City.