Filed Under Virginia City

Elephant Auction House

Virginia City Historic District

The livestock trade was big business in emerging gold towns across the West. In the 1860s when livestock was essential to transportation, owners of liveries (stables) and corrals stood to profit far more than any gold digger. James Gray and Justus Cooke ran the Elephant Auction House here from summer 1863 to fall 1864. A long, sloped porch roof once extended from this building far into Wallace Street, providing shade for the auctioneer and attracting many passers-by. This corner was already the busiest in town, and at auction time pandemonium ensued as crowds of buyers and spectators blocked the street with horses and wagons. After several traffic jams and accidents, city officials outlawed the sale of livestock on Virginia City’s main streets. After the auction house moved, the porch was dismantled, and for the next forty years the building held various stores and offices. It was demolished with its neighbor before 1922, but Charles Bovey reconstructed it in 1948 to house antique fire department equipment. A gift shop has occupied the building since the late 1990s.


South side of Wallace Street near Jackson, Virginia City View looking west on Wallace Street during a livestock auction at the Elephant Auction House. The auction house is the building with the shed roof projecting into the street. Source: Montana Heritage Commission Creator: Unknown photographer Date: ca. 1864
Elephant Auction House, Virginia City View looking south at building facade Source: Courtesy of Montana Heritage Commission Creator: Kate Steeley, Montana Heritage Commission Date: Oct 2019
Looking southwest, at south side of Wallace Street, Virginia City, MT. By 1875, the Elephant Auction house moved off Wallace St. and a variety store moved in. Source: PAc 956-310. Montana Historical Society Research Center Photograph Archives, Helena, MT. Creator: Unknown photographer Date: ca. 1875


Wallace Street, Virginia City | Public


Montana National Register Sign Program, “Elephant Auction House,” Historic Montana, accessed May 31, 2023,