Manhattan, A Church, And Some Nevada History

The Sacred Heart Mission, or Manhattan Church as it is unofficially known.
Photo by Osie Turner

Normally when someone mentions Manhattan images of skyscrapers, Wall Street, and Times Square are instantly called to mind. However, this week’s post takes us to a very different Manhattan. The quaint town of Manhattan, Nevada is a stark contrast to the busy streets of New York City. Tucked away in the heart of Central Nevada on the edge of the Toiyabe National Forest, you’ll find the small picturesque town and its 124 residents. One of the town’s best preserved and most distinguishable buildings is a wooden church which overlooks the town from atop a hill behind the post office.

The church is as old as it looks and has had an interesting history. Although it is all but abandoned, it is still in a good state of preservation with only a few minor blemishes on the outside. Only one small pane of glass is broken on one of the westward facing side windows; the beautiful stained glass windows above the main door are completely intact and just as vibrant as the day the church was built.

Inside the church.
Photo by Osie Turner

It was originally called St. Stephens Church, later Sacred Heart Mission, and it is now commonly referred to simply as the Manhattan Church. It was constructed in 1874 but not where it currently stands; in fact Manhattan didn’t even exist yet. Belmont, Nevada, about twenty miles away, was the first home of St. Stephens and it served well for about twenty years or so until the boom came to a close for Belmont and the church was essentially abandoned by 1901.

In 1908 the entire structure was uprooted and moved from Belmont to Manhattan and rechristened as the Sacred Heart Mission. Once there, it once again held mass for the faithful of the new mining town. Eventually Manhattan began to shrink as the population relocated after the mines closed up and the church fell into disuse by the early 1950s. Thanks to an effort to save and restore the church in 1971, Sacred Heart Mission has survived to this day in remarkable condition for a wooden structure form that era.

The old wooden building still stands sentinel watching over the small town as the years continue to roll by. It is awe-inspiring to gaze up at the iconic structure from Manhattan’s main street and, hopefully, the old church will continue to stand there for many more years to come.

The porch of the church has the best view of Manhattan.
Photo by Osie Turner

To get a closer look at the Sacred Heart Mission, take Gold Street north from Main Street and take the second turn on the right. It is an unnamed dirt road, but it will take you right up to the church. The church is not open to the public, but you can peek inside through the windows and see everything well enough.

If you want to stay in Manhattan, accommodations can be found at The Manhattan Bar and Motel. Besides exploring the historic town and its other landmarks, such as the ruins of the Nye & Ormsby County Bank, there are plenty of outdoor activities to do in the area. Manhattan is also a great place to stop while traveling through the Big Smoky Valley.

For more about the history of Manhattan, Manhattan: Land of Heart’s Desire is a superb resource.

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