Blue Front Variety Store

Virginia City Historic District

Like the Picture Gallery, the Elling Store, and several others, this 1946 building and its neighbor to the left are a faithful reconstruction of the originals. The Elephant Auction House occupied these storefronts from summer 1863 until October 1864. By November 1866, William (Judge) Douglas had painted the storefront a deep azure blue and opened the Blue Front Novelty Store. Douglas leased stalls to various small businesses that offered everything from books and magazines to stationery, toys, produce, footwear, and cigarettes. The sword-wielding man painted on the façade advertised the store’s Turkish tobacco products. William Buttermore bought the store in 1879. He ran it with few changes until his death in 1911. At the time, it was one of Virginia City’s longest-lived businesses. Despite its status as a beloved institution in town, the Blue Front was torn down, most likely in winter 1919. A nationwide coal miners’ strike and ensuing coal shortage hit Virginia City hard, forcing freezing residents to tear down and salvage numerous abandoned buildings for firewood. After reconstruction, the building served as a penny arcade for nearly 40 years.



306 West Wallace Street, Virginia City, Montana ~ Public