Preserving Nevada's History: Old Church Still a Volunteer Effort

Sitting in the middle of the state, in the rural, almost ghost-town of Austin, Nevada, is St. Augustine's Catholic Church. Rising from a desert hillside and built on solid granite, the church was designed to look like a ship sailing in the sea.

The church opened its doors during a gold and silver rush to a thriving Austin of 8,000 residents in 1866. Built through the tireless effort of Irish and Italian miners, these volunteers would often head to the construction area after long, exhausting days at the mines. But they needed schools and churches for their families, and were determined to see it happen.

But with the decline of the mining industry, things changed. Population shrank to almost nothing, resident priests left and the church on a hill was shut down for decades. Communities tried to preserve the building, but there were no funds. 

Until Jan Morrison, a developer from Las Vegas, retired and decided to move to Austin.

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She admits that she would never consider buying and restoring the old, decrepit structure, if it had kept quiet. But it didn’t.

“I bought a house from the 1860s, across the street from the church,” Morrison recalls. "But the church’s roof was pulling off and it kept me awake at night."

One of the remaining parishioners offered her a solution: buy the church to get a good night's rest.

Things moved quickly from there. Morrison founded a non-profit organization, received a grant, repaired the historical building and gave it a new life – now as a cultural center. 


Jan Morrison, retired Las Vegas developer

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