Knights of the Pythias / Miner’s Union Hall 2005-06

Knights of the Pythias/ Miner’s Union Hall Building Virginia City, Nevada. 1876

90% completed replica of the Knights of the Pythias/furniture store/Miner's Union Hall, high fire ceramic, redwood, metal, glass, 37" x 37" x 8". 2005-06

The Beehive so masterfully created in brick and mortar on the peak of the Miner’s Union Hall in Virginia City Nevada in 1876 not only symbolizes the hard work that was going on in the mines, but the bustling growth of a Western boom town. This was the trigger that inspired me to preserve this spirit through my portrayal of this building.

Miner's beehive in wet clay

The Union Hall, along with the architecturally intriguing Knights of the Pythias building, sit as sentries up the hill from the often chaotic bustle of Main street. Sandwiched between the two is a simple brick façade, which has sat silent for many years on and off, and has served several purposes. I was looking for the challenge of creating a multi building piece using mixed media of ceramics, wood, metal, and glass. This project certainly fit the bill.  Again using HABS diagrams and photos, along with info obtained from two site visits, a great deal of time was involved with the planning. Five ceramic shells needed to be fired and joined together. After firing each shell at cone 10, I realized the tremendous stress put on them at this high temperature certainly causes warpage in the material. It was very difficult to seamlessly combine these pieces together. I now only fire my shells to cone 6  and sometimes 8, still a medium to high fire, but with less warping. This piece is about 95 percent complete, with nearly 1000 hours of time involved.

Virginia City Nevada, B street buildings 1948

Virginia City Nevada, B street buildings 1948

Significance: The picturesque Miners’ Union and Knights of Pythias Halls are two of the few unaltered false-fronted buildings remaining in Virginia City. “Nevada Lodge No. 1” of the Knights of Pythias was formed in Virginia City on March 23, 1873. The Lodge’s paraphernalia was consumed in a fire on September 11, 1875. New regalia, procured from the defunct lodge at Genoa, burned in the Great Virginia City Fire six weeks later. The existing cast iron and stuccoed brick building was built in 1875. Nevada shared it with the city’s other lodges: Lincoln, No. 6 (1874), and Triumph, No. 11 (1879). A “Miners’ Protective Association” was formed at Virginia City on June 6, 1863, with the central purpose of maintaining the standard wage of $4.00 a day for all work underground. Subsequently, the first demonstration to enforce this rate occurred at Gold Hill on July 31, 1864. Blacklisting of union members and general economic hard times reduced employment in 1864-65; the league disintegrated, and a wage of $3.50 was temporarily established in the spring of 1865. Employment revived, however, and a new miners’ union was formed on July 4, 1867. Even after the Comstock was visibly and permanently declining in the late 1870’s, the union successfully maintained the $4.00 rate. The original single story, wood meeting hall burned in the great fire of October 26, 1875. Its brick replacement, built in 1876, included an upstairs library. This library, established in 1877, was the only public library in Virginia City and the largest general library in the state. Union families had free access to its 2200 volumes while others paid $.50 a month.

replica-Pythias building upper windows.



Additional information

Historic American Building Survey diagrams


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One Comment to "Knights of the Pythias / Miner’s Union Hall 2005-06"

  1. […] Paul strives to attain the most detail he can with his mediums. His three building facade of the Knights of the Pythias and  Miner’s Union Hall from Virginia City Nevada for example, has nearly 1000 hours of work […]

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