Step through the faded, white brick portal into the past - into the cool air and darkness of the Sutro Tunnel.
The Fourth Ward School, along with the Sutro Tunnel Co., are allowing the public to visit the historic sight of Sutro for one day.
"Sutro Revisited" is a benefit for restoring Virginia City's Fourth Ward School and will feature guided tours by local historians of the now privately owned grounds and buildings of Sutro, a slide show, music and a portrayal of Adolph Sutro, the man whose dream was to connect the riches of Virginia City with a mill in the Dayton Valley below.
"I have received hundreds of requests to tour the historic grounds of the Sutro town site over the years," said Pete Leonard, president of the Sutro Tunnel Co. "In the interest of historic preservation we have created this exceptional event for the public so they can experience this remarkable chapter in Nevada's history."
About 350 gallons of water flow through the tunnel every minute of every day, and after an earthquake in the 1990s the tunnel caved in, blocking the flume that carries water from the tunnel to the Sutro Reservoir.
Western Mine Development has been working since March to drain the flume and replace the timber sets.
A representative of the project said all the timber sets are up and the tunnel is more than half way complete.
It cost $22,000 just to repair the portal and muck out the first 40 feet into the tunnel, Leonard said.
Keith Kiechler and Randall Franklin, of Keystone Masonry, were working to repair the brick on the portal Friday.
"It's good for the area and something worth saving," Kiechler said.
According to Comstock historian Chic Di Francia, Sutro conceived the idea for a tunnel to Virginia City when he arrived in 1860 as a way to ventilate the deep mines of the Comstock. It was to be used to drain water, and to transport ore to the mills along the Carson River.
Construction began in 1869, after the Nevada Legislature had voted to grant Sutro a franchise to begin work four years earlier. The tunnel took nine years to complete.
Cost of construction for the tunnel was $3.5 million.
The town of Sutro was built in the early 1860s, three miles east of Dayton at the drainage point of the 3.8 mile-long Sutro Tunnel, said Barbara Mackey of the Fourth Ward School.
A pond, built to harvest frogs for frog legs, remains with water still flowing from the tunnel, and stables that housed the mules that worked in the tunnel still stand.
Restoration of the tunnel allows the public to see inside the historic site that has been closed to the public for decades. A similar fund-raising tour in 1999 drew hundreds of people curious about the history of Sutro. Little could be seen past the tunnel's portal, however, because of the earlier cave-in.
The town of Sutro is now on private property; therefore, transportation will be provided and no smoking is allowed on the grounds.
IF YOU GO
What: Sutro Revisited
When: 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Aug. 4,
Where: Sutro, meet in the unpaved parking area of the Dayton Smith's store for transportation to the tunnel.
Reserved tickets: $30 adults, $20 children (12 and under) call (775) 847-0975