A couple of days ago, there was a town called Empire, Nevada. Today, that town is no longer on the map, so to speak. The zip code – 89405 – won’t even exist anymore. Originally founded back in 1923 as a mining tent camp for U.S. Gypsum, the town was officially sealed off on June 20th. It wasn’t any mining disaster, earthquake, or accident that closed the town down – it was the economy.
Just about 100 miles northeast of Reno, Empire was home to over 750 people. At the start of this year about half that number had already moved away. When the Sheetrock plant closed in January, even more people relocated out of town.
Because Empire was a company town, the fall of the company meant the fall of the town. U.S. Gypsum had owned the town since 1948 and would rent homes to workers for incredibly reasonable rates – $250 per month for a two-bedroom home or $125 for an apartment. At those prices, we wish we could move in, but alas, Empire is no more.
Empire was actually the last company town in the United States. It had a community center, tennis court, pool, and even a golf course. The next closest town is Gerlach, Nevada. Empire’s demise is also bad news for Gerlach. At the end of the school year, Gerlach had 73 students. Now that people have moved out of Empire, it is slated to have only 12.
Most Empire residents that haven’t already left will soon move away, but a few will stay in the area.