Virginia City Historic District

National Historic Landmark

The spectacular gold deposit discovered in Alder Gulch on May 26, 1863, led to the rapid growth of this colorful and legendary gold camp town. Thousands of fortune‑seekers rushed to the area, and by 1864 the Virginia City area boasted 30,000 residents. Rough characters attracted by the gold rush gave Virginia City an unsavory reputation, but these were tempered by pioneers and their families who settled here and helped to shape the new frontier. After the creation of the Territory of Montana, Virginia City became the territorial capital, 1865‑1875, and the Madison County seat. As the gold played out, Virginia City's population dwindled. False-fronted commercial structures, simple log cabins, and frame Victorian residences remained as testimony to the transitory gold rush. Among the first to recognize the historical and architectural significance of Virginia City were Charlie and Sue Bovey of Great Falls. They began to purchase and stabilize some of the fragile buildings in the early 1940s. The Boveys' personal efforts and those of their son, Ford, resulted in the town's designation as a National Historic Landmark and its remarkable preservation as one of the most intact gold rush era towns in the West.

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It's All a Façade
Audio recording about the clever use of materials that create a veneer of civilization in early pioneer buildings. Prepared and recorded by Montana Historical Society staff member Ellen Baumler. Presented on the Soundcloud channel "Montana History on...
View File Record


As seen on the USGS 15' Virginia City, Montana map, beginning at the northeastern corner of the town limits of Virginia City (point A), the national historic landmark boundary runs southeasterly along the eastern town boundary to the southeast corner (point B); thence southwesterly for about one and a half miles to a peak (point C) approximately 6320 feet in elevation, near the midpoint of the north line of Section 35, T6S, R3W; thence southwesterly for approximately one mile to a peak (point D) located in the northeast quarter of Section 34, T6S, R3W, approximately one-quarter miles southwest of the El Fleeta Mine; thence northwesterly approximately one and three-eighths miles to a peak (point E) located near the southeast corner of Section 21, T6S, R3W, and labeled as 6236 feet in altitude; thence northwesterly approximately one and one-eighth miles to a peak (point F) just south of the midpoint of the north line of Section 22, T6S, R3W, labeled as 5915 feet in altitude; thence southeasterly approximately one and two-thirds miles to the point of origin. Virginia City, Montana ~ Private | Public