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Explore America’s Heritage with TAP

Belmont Ghost Town

Belmont, Nevada

The remote town of Belmont, Nevada, doesn’t have power; it barely has cell service. But it does have people, about a dozen residents. And those residents welcome visitors to the ghost town to see the ruins of collapsed buildings, to gaze upon the remains of partially standing structures and to tour the inside of the Belmont Courthouse, which is being restored.

“There were always people in Belmont — maybe not a lot — but it never really was completely a ghost town,” said Donna Motis, president of Friends of the Belmont Courthouse, which was established in 2011 to preserve and restore the building.

Belmont is the classic tale of a boom-and-bust mining town that sprang up after a rich silver ore deposit was discovered in October 1875. Only 25 years later, Belmont’s silver boom was winding down, and people were drifting away. Nearly 100 years later, in 1972, the entire town, including the 1876 courthouse, was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The courthouse has a new roof and new windows to make it weather tight. Regular tours are available in the summer, or groups can arrange for private tours, Motis said. Inside the brick building is a veritable archive of history — on the walls. After the county seat moved to Tonopah, the nearest “big” city 55 miles away, in 1905, the courthouse remained unlocked, and people wrote on the walls.

“There’s a lot of history in there just from the names and dates written on the walls,” Motis said.

Groups can also follow a brochure and plaques for a self-guided walking tour. Some buildings are still partially standing, among them the George Ernst house and the old schoolhouse. The Philadelphia Building, which once housed offices for the mine, the mill and the newspaper, still stands and is now a private residence. After wandering around town, visitors can grab a drink at Dirty Dick’s Saloon or browse one of three gift shops.

Ford’s Theatre


Standing in the spot where President Abraham Lincoln was shot on the night of April 14, 1865, means you’re standing in the very place where history pivoted. But Ford’s Theatre also allows visitors to walk in the steps of history through the tour History on Foot — Investigation: Detective McDevitt.

During the walking tour, each person takes on the role of a deputy while a costumed actor plays the role of detective James McDevitt, who was on duty the night Lincoln was shot. The guide leads the group from the theater to the White House, past eight major sites along the way. He narrates the tour based on “original witness accounts of what happened that night,” including information from McDevitt, who was on duty about half a block away when the shooting occurred, said group sales manager Josh Feldman.

Groups can visit the historic theater, as well as the Center for Education and Leadership located across the street and adjacent to the Peterson House, where Lincoln died on the morning of April 15, 363 days a year. The Peterson House is also open for tours.

Groups can also enjoy a ranger talk or a performance in Ford’s Theatre. During the spring and early summer, visitors can watch the one-act play called “One Destiny,” a name derived from the phrase “One Country, One Destiny” that was embroidered in the lining of Lincoln’s overcoat.

Although it’s a historic site, Ford’s Theatre is still a working performing arts center with “a really exciting season that’s underway,” Feldman said. Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” is onstage every holiday season. “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf” will run January 21 through February 19, and the musical “Ragtime” will open March 10.

Freedom Trail


It’s only 2.5 miles long, but the Freedom Trail in Boston “is an experience of 250 years,” said Suzanne Taylor, executive director of the Freedom Trail Foundation. The trail leads visitors to 16 country-defining sites, including Boston Common, the Paul Revere House, Faneuil Hall, the Old South Meeting House and the Old State House.

The standard option is A Walk Into History tour that lasts about 90 minutes and features 11 of the trail’s 16 sites, but a three-hour group tour is available that covers all 16 sites, although visitors don’t go inside all of them. Either way, a costumed Freedom Trail player guides the tour and talks about the significance of each stop.

The Old North Church recently added two new living-history areas in the Clough House. At Captain Jackson’s Historic Chocolate Shop, guests can taste how Colonial-era residents enjoyed chocolate, including sipping the same chocolate concoction John and Abigail Adams drank. At the Printing Office of Edes and Gill, visitors can watch a master printer operate an 18th-century printing press.

Until fall of 2017, groups have an unusual opportunity to see the USS Constitution while it’s in dry dock being restored. Next door, the USS Constitution Museum’s new exhibit “Forest to Frigate” explores the creation of the U.S. Navy and Revolution-era ship-making. Visitors can sign giant copper sheets that will be placed on the USS Constitution‘s hull during the restoration, “so your name will go on the hull of the ship,” Taylor said.

The Freedom Trail Foundation offers a variety of themed tours, such as Pirates and Patriots, and African-American Patriots, that groups can request. New lantern tours and the Revolutionary Women Tour have been popular, she said. For a little more money, the Historic Pub Crawl includes beer tastings and small bites at four historic pubs on the historic Blackstone Block, where many of the Sons of Liberty would gather “to ferment the revolution, as we like to say.”