On November 28, 1876, the excited residents of Virginia City christened their new monument to education, the Fourth Ward School. Built to honor the nation's centennial, the majestic four-story building could accommodate over 1000 students, and it boasted state-of-the-art heating, ventilation, and sanitation systems, as well as water piped to all floors. Architect C.M. Bennett may have drawn inspiration from popular 19th-century architectural pattern books for the design of the Second Empire structure with its distinctive Mansard roof. Projected to cost around $30,000, the completed project came in at $54,000 including land and furniture.
Permanent exhibits include the Fourth Ward School building, a historical overview of the Comstock, a newly renovated Comstock mining overview funded by the Commission of Mineral Resources , 1870's classroom, Virginia City Alumni photographs and memorabilia, and Mark Twain. Oral history programs are also available.