The Division of Museum and History is working to renovate the historic freight building. Once complete, the freight building will be used to host events, for public rental, for exhibit space, and collection/archive storage.


The discovery of a vast copper ore deposit prompted the construction of the Nevada Northern Railway in 1905. Tracks were laid to Ely by September of 1906 and the railroad began building the necessary support structures. The first to be completed was the Freight Building which would be utilized to bring supplies to eastern Nevada. The structure would serve that purpose for the next 75 years. When the Kennecott Copper Corporation and the NNRy closed in 1983, the building fell into disrepair. It was deeded to the State of Nevada in 1990. Stabilization efforts began immediately. Museum staff leveled and increased support to the foundation for the first time in decades. Siding, windows, and doors were all repaired. The roof was replaced in 1995 and a permanent foundation, restrooms, electrical, and alarm systems were added in 2009. The exterior was restored the following year. To date, the building has received over two million dollars in restoration. The building is on the Public Works recommended list for continued improvements to begin in 2024. Once completed, the building will be a focal point of interpretive exhibits and archives while serving as a rentable venue for community activities.


The historic Freight Building of the Nevada Northern Railway was important to the area’s economy. Before the days of FedEx or UPS, materials were brought to Ely by rail. It was the area’s link to the outside world and products from groceries to building supplies would all arrive by rail car. As highways and interstate trucking became more popular, freight services began to dwindle. Less revenue meant less building maintenance. The building received little care for two decades. The roof was failing, the foundation was sagging, and the exterior walkways were a hazard to anyone visiting. The State of Nevada invested heavily in bringing the building up to code and continues this commitment today.


The Freight Building is in remarkable shape for its age. Built in 1906, it is the oldest building on the NNRy complex. Current plans include considerable renovation while still maintaining the building’s original character and appearance. Crews will insulate the structure and install an HVAC system that will allow year-round use. A fire suppression system will protect the Museum’s visitors, archives, and artifacts while providing a state-of-the-art storage facility to enhance the collection storage. Restroom capacity will be increased and mechanical systems will be upgraded.


The completion of the Freight Building renovation is based on legislative funding. Currently, the project is approved by Public Works and is expected to be approved and funded by the 2023 Legislative Session with Governor Approval by July 1, 2023 going to bid shortly after. Construction is expected to take several months with an expected opening of July 1, 2024.