Up until a short while ago, I had been following the situation in Empire, Nevada very closely. I found myself fascinated by the story of the town of 350 people, owned by a gypsum mining corporation – US Gypsum, and how it was just shut down. The town was founded in 1923 by miners but ultimately purchased by USG in 1948. It was owned and operated by USG until the towns closure on January 31, 2011. Residents with children were allowed to stay until June 20 in order to finish out the school year. Even the ZIP code was dissolved.
I’m not sure what about this interests me, human interest I suppose. I do have an ongoing fascination with closure, and the absence of life where there once was. I took a few trips out to Empire to just investigate a little and get a feel for what was happening out there. Most people only know Empire as the place to go when you need Burning Man supplies as it is one of the last places (if not the last place) to purchase water, gas etc, but there was a community here. There was a school, 2 churches a post office, a swimming pool and even a 9 hole golf course.
The one regret I have about the my Empire “experience” was not knowing the residents. I never got the chance to go in and hear the stories about the place or really understand what happened and why. I’ve never made any judgement on USG or why they closed down the city, everyone knows times are tough and keeping that size of an operation open and profitable in the current climate would have been difficult but I do wish I would have had the opportunity to hear the real side of this.
There was quite a few stories nationally and internationally about this town and it’s demise so I think there is an inherent interest by people in general in this sort of story. It’s the underdog versus the corporation thing I guess. Now whether this is true or not in the case of Empire I really don’t know. From what I’ve read it was very hard for both sides. I will head out again at some point and see what’s left of the city and perhaps talk to whomever remains in the area. I heard the gas station will stay open. At least the Burners will still have a place to get supplies.
You can see more of the story here .