Today we visited Virginia City, once the biggest, busiest city in Montana. Founded as a result of the discovery of gold in 1863, it quickly became the commercial, entertainment, and transportation center in the Alder Gulch mining district. By 1865 Virginia City was the capital city of the Montana Territory. Numerous settlements dotted the landscape along the fourteen miles that comprised the gold field, among them Summit, Central City, and Nevada City.Only Virginia City survived. Other communities were torn down in order to mine the gold beneath or even within the buildings. In 1875 the capital was moved to Helena. But by 1875 the railroad had bypassed Virginia City. It became the town that time forgot. That is until the day in 1944 when Charlie and Sue Bovey came to town.


They recognized the need to preserve the history and for the next 34 years they devoted amazing amounts of time and money to saving the history of Alder Gulch. If not for them we would not have had the opportunity today to visit this amazing place. We started in the Virginia City Visitor’s Center then took a complimentary  narrated narrow gauge railroad ride



to Nevada City along the creek, past the site of Center City, and amid tailings left from dredging operations. The buildings in Nevada City are nearly all from other places in Montana but were brought here by Bovey to create a town much like the one here in the 1860’s. There’s a saddle shop with all the original equipment and supplies! Of note the painter Charles Russell used to come by and “jaw” with Sullivan, the saddler.


There’s a barbershop, a schoolhouse, a general store, a blacksmith’s shop,


a wagon shop (the building was a dining hall in Yellowstone Park until 1959 and Steve’s family may have seen it on their 1955 trip),


some one room cabins, a fancy two story house complete with marble trimmed bathtub, a Chinese market, and much much more. Back in Virginia City we wandered along the main street which is a curious mix of private businesses and museum displays nearly all in historic buildings.

There’s the Wells Fargo office, a grocery store, the gold assay office, the building where the vigilantes met, to name a few.





One of the most curious was the dry goods and dressmaker shop that is just as the proprietor left it the day she hung an Out to Lunch on the door, left, and never came back. Since 1997 the properties have been owned by the state and have been operated by the Montana Heritage Commission. They have ongoing plans for the preservation and restoration of the precious historical resources here. We noticed at the visitors center that one current project is the restoration of the Sarah Bickford  house. We highly recommend that you put this wonderful place on your list of places to visit.

 

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