Virginia City National Historic Landmark District

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.

Thompson-Hickman Library and Museum

William Boyce Thompson and his wife, Gertrude Hickman, were born in Virginia City to parents of early pioneers. The couple moved to New York City, but retained local ties. The Thompsons provided the funds to build this facility housing a public…

Gilbert House

Christen Richter, Henry Gilbert’s partner in the brewing business, built a home on this site in 1864 and soon added a stone wing. Gilbert purchased both Richter’s interest in the business and the house, moving his own dwelling to adjoin it on the…

George and Mary Gohn House

The Beaverhead Saloon stood here in 1864 when this part of town was the commercial center. By 1878, business activity had shifted to Wallace Street and the saloon had been replaced by a small, two-story frame dwelling, which is now the southwest…

Lewis / Gohn House

During restoration of this modest dwelling, built in 1864 by J. M. Lewis and later owned by the Gohn family, its unusual construction came to light. Hand-planed planks finely crafted with key joints in between, posts of hand-hewn timbers, and ceiling…

Gohn House 2

George Gohn, a butcher by trade, came to Alder Gulch with the first rush in June of 1863. A member of the vigilance committee and later elected to several county offices, Gohn ran a local meat market. The Gohn family lived in the house next door…

Lewis / McKay House

J. M. Lewis built two small frame dwellings and two others to the east atop this terraced ridge in 1864. They were among the town’s first homes to incorporate planed lumber with log construction. By the 1870s, a central addition connected the two…

Territorial Governor's Mansion

When President Grant named Benjamin F. Potts of Ohio governor of the Territory of Montana in 1870, it was to this modest home that the new governor came to begin serving his appointment. Virginia City was then the territorial capital, and this small…

C.L. Dahler House

Two small houses shared this choice corner location in 1866, but after 1875, photographs reveal the unmistakable steeply pitched roof and central gable of this splendid Gothic Revival style residence. Expansion and remodeling during the 1890s added…

Original Madison County Courthouse

Madison County was one of the original nine counties created by the first territorial legislature in 1865. This building, constructed in 1866, served as the county courthouse during Virginia City’s stint as territorial capital (1865-1875). When the…

City Hall/Elks Club, Virginia City

Dredge mining in the late 1890s brought new life to Virginia City and a dire need for modern office and meeting space. In 1896, town citizens voted to issue bonds to build a multipurpose City Hall with space for the city, law offices, and social…

Allen and Millard Bank

The Federal Reserve Bank of Montana identifies the Allen and Millard Bank, which opened here in 1864, as the first real bank in Montana Territory. While other businesses in the territory called themselves banks, most were actually express companies…

Creighton Stone Block

Brothers John A. and Edward Creighton came west scouting the first transcontinental telegraph lines from Omaha, Nebraska, to the coast. Temporarily settling in Virginia City, Edward hired Thompson and Griffith to construct this building, the first of…

Hangman's Building

On January 14, 1864, the Vigilantes used the heavy center support beam of this building, then under construction, to hang five of Henry Plummer’s road agents: Frank Parish, Boone Helm, Jack Gallagher, Haze Lyons, and Club Foot George Lane. Druggists…

Bartlett's Blacksmith Shop

Virginia City boomed and land prices soared accordingly in 1863 and 1864, a trend well illustrated in the earliest ownership transactions of this choice commercial property. On May 13, 1864, George Parker paid $800 for the lot and sold it for $1,400…

Elling Bank

Bankers Nowlan and Weary set up business in this brick-veneered building, one of the town’s oldest stone structures, in 1864. Three well-proportioned Gothic arches with elaborate tracery, removed during 1910 remodeling, originally graced its stone…

F.R. Merk Block

Gold dust was the common currency when George Higgins built this sturdy “fire-proof stone” business block circa 1866. F. R. Merk leased the new building for his mercantile, advertising fancy and staple groceries, liquors, household implements, and a…

Virginia City Café

Fire swept through this block in 1915 destroying all the wood-frame buildings between Stonewall Hall on the west and the F. R. Merk building on the east. Originally this site was home to a small, wood-frame, false-front building. Hellman & Co.…

Pfouts and Russel (Rank's Drug - Old Masonic Temple)

Paris Pfouts, Vigilante president and Virginia City’s first mayor, was instrumental in laying out the town. He and his partner, Samuel Russell, built a log store on this site in summer 1863. Local hell-raiser Jack Slade was arrested here on March 10,…

Albright Clothing Store

A fire swept through this block in January 1888 destroying Phil Conrey’s barbershop on this site. Neighbors to the left, Merkle’s Jewelry Store, Gohn’s Meat Market, and Jacob Dick’s Paint Store also burned down. Gohn rebuilt his decorative tin-front…

Metropolitan Meat Market

George Gohn was one of the first to arrive at Alder Gulch in 1863, where he and Conrad Kohrs set up a meat market in a log cabin. Alkali dust sifted through the chinks and covered the meat, prompting Gohn to experiment with various other locations…

Montana Post

This building, constructed of logs by D. W. Tilton in the fall of 1863, housed Montana’s first newspaper, founded in 1864. The stone print shop at the rear was completed in January 1865, and the following year a new Gothic style façade was applied…

Stonewall Hall

From 1865 to 1875 when Virginia City was Montana’s territorial capital, the Territorial Legislature met on the second floor of this stone building. Constructed in 1864, it is Montana’s oldest standing capitol building. The second floor also housed…

Contents's Corner

When Solomon Content built this commercial building in 1864, it was one of the area’s most impressive, desirable business spaces. Stucco scored to look like stone originally covered the rubble stone walls, and Gothic transoms lent a civilized…

Assay Office

Mining is filthy work, a fact that spelled opportunity for African American barber George Turley, who opened a “Fashionable Hair Dressing and Shaving Saloon” in a narrow building on this site. In 1864, Turley advertised bathrooms for miners…

Elephant Auction House

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…

Blue Front Variety Store

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.…

Ten Pin Alley Saloon

Virginia City grew up almost overnight after William Fairweather found color in Alder Creek. Miners rushed to the rich diggings, leaving Bannack, Montana’s first major gold camp, practically a ghost town. Among the Bannack merchants to follow their…

E.L. Smith Store

The design of this false-fronted wooden shop, built in 1863, includes hand-hewn timbers and bay windows, which are said to have been Montana’s first “show windows.” The Star Billiard Hall was an early tenant, followed by a shoe dealer, and, in the…

Buford Block (Site of Wells Fargo Office)

Ben Holladay’s Overland Stage reached Virginia City in 1864, and from that time until 1899, stages arrived and departed from this site for connections all over the West and the States. Bought out by Wells Fargo and Company in 1866, the office also…

Overland Express/Buford Store

Ben Holladay’s Overland Stage opened here in 1864 with stages arriving and departing from this site for connections all over the West and the States. Bought out by Wells Fargo and Company in 1866, the office also housed the telegraph. Thirty years…

Montana Picture Gallery

Charles and Sue Bovey began preserving and reconstructing Virginia and Nevada Cities in the mid-1940s. Often, they relocated entire buildings from elsewhere, recreating streetscapes to reflect territorial days. Early fire insurance maps show that W.…

S.R. Buford & Company

Rounded arches and a tall false front characterize Virginia City’s first brick building, built by clothing merchant E. J. Walter in 1875. It is said that construction using locally produced bricks was accomplished as a test before the building of the…

Henry Elling Clothing Store

Henry Elling, one of Montana’s early prominent businessmen, first arrived in Virginia City in 1864 with a small stock of men’s clothing. In 1867, Elling returned to Virginia City and opened a store where the Buford warehouse is now located. Elling…

S.L. Simpson Building (Barber Shop)

This narrow frame building may be one of Virginia City’s earliest structures, dating to the summer of 1863, when buildings like this were rented for up to $175 during the initial gold rush. Its odd-sized door appears to have been locally handmade.…

J.B. Labeau, Jeweler (Toy Store)

Ford, Robinson and Clark built this narrow building in late 1863 or early 1864. J. B. LaBeau purchased it for $500 in 1865 to house his shop, and pioneer surgeon Dr. I. C. Smith established his office here in 1870. In the 1890s, the building was…

Frank Prasch Blacksmith Shop

Like the blacksmith shop next door, this early building was probably a dance hall or saloon in the mid-1860s run by owner John Trollman. In 1865, Trollman was one of Virginia City’s seventy-three licensed retail liquor dealers. By the 1870s, a larger…

Sauerbier Blacksmith Shop

A notorious dance hall was the original occupant of this 1863 building, which encompasses a small cabin of V-notched logs, one of the first built in June of that year. Tall French doors and a few dentils clinging to the façade recall its former dance…

J.F. Stoer Saloon

Retail liquor dealer J. F. Stoer operated here from the raucous 1860s until about 1890. From that time until 1908, Smith and Boyd, who ran the livery next door, ran this establishment, aptly renamed the “Bale of Hay.” After 1908, the building stood…

Virginia City Trading Company

Carpenter Ray McClurg built this reproduction storefront building in 1948 to house the Virginia City Trading Company, the tourism company owned by preservationists Charles and Sue Bovey. In the early 1950s, Charles acquired and restored many…

Smith & Boyd Livery Stable

This false-fronted rubble stone barn was constructed by Smith and Boyd circa 1900, replacing a log livery stable. The stone part of the building and the front doors and windows remain as they were at the turn of the twentieth century. The barn was…

Anaconda Hotel (Faiweather Inn)

The oldest section of this building, dating to 1863, was first a simple one-story building that housed a restaurant called the “Young American Eating House.” A butcher shop followed from 1866 to the 1880s, and then in the 1880s the building was a…

Kiskadden's Stone Block (Vigilante Barn)

Virginia City’s first stone building, constructed during the summer of 1863, originally housed three stores on the ground floor and a meeting hall upstairs. Popular legend has long designated this as the meeting place of the Vigilantes, who…

City Bakery

When Charles and Sue Bovey decided to turn Virginia City into a premiere tourist destination in the 1940s, the building that originally stood here was in ruins. The Boveys hired mason Chris Christensen to rebuild the structure’s front wall from the…

Strasburger's Colorado Store (Jewelry Store)

Inspired by the Renaissance Revival style, the impressive façade of this 1863 building reveals a storefront design very innovative for the 1860s. By the 1880s this “reverse bay style” door and window arrangement became a standard storefront…

G. Goldberg Store (McGovern Dry Goods)

This 1863 building features a classic Greek Revival style storefront with French doors, typical of the 1860s frontier. The lintel above the doors still bears the name of G. Goldberg, who ran the Pioneer Clothing Store Company prior to 1866. The…

Kramer Building (Dress Shop)

The hasty construction of this remarkably preserved early dwelling reflects the excitement of the gold rush to Alder Gulch during the summer of 1863. Its original dirt-covered pole roof predates the first saw mills; the roof was later covered over…

Dance and Stuart Store

James Stuart and his brother Granville set up the first sluice boxes in the northern Rockies in 1852. Delaware native Walter B. Dance came to Gold Creek in 1862. James Stuart and Dance opened their mercantile in November 1863. One of Virginia City’s…

Julius Kohls House

Carpenter, cabinetmaker, and lumber dealer Julius Kohls purchased this lot from J. F. Stoer in 1875. Early photographs suggest that this was the site of the famous Leviathan Hall where the longest documented bare knuckle fight (185 rounds) took place…

Henderson's Paint Shop

John Henderson’s painting business occupied this humble log building beginning in 1864. In addition to painting buildings, Henderson also offered decorative painting and sign writing. In Virginia City’s boom days, when new buildings on Wallace Street…

Green Front Boarding House

During the wild 1860s, Virginia City had no red-light district and “sporting women” intermingled with the general population. By the 1870s, there were few customers to support such activities and the women moved on. After dredging crews began to work…

Sisters of Charity Nunnery

A grueling journey by train and stagecoach brought three Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth, Kansas, to Virginia City in 1876. The former Madison County Courthouse (now the Bonanza Inn) had been vacated. The sisters purchased the building, which then…

Mary Harding House

Square hewn log walls combined with drop siding recall the important transition from a gold camp to a settled town and the accompanying desire for attractive, less rustic, permanent housing. The interior of this mid-1870s two-story residence survives…

Driggs Outbuildings / "Cabbage Patch"

This small L-shaped collection of outbuildings appears in historic photographs dating to the 1860s. Originally owned by Walter Dance and James Stuart among others, E. W. Driggs owned the property by 1869. The small board-and-batten buildings served…

Gilbert/Pankey Cabin

Small one- and two-room log houses like the western portion of this cabin lined the side streets of Virginia City in the mid-1860s. Assistant U.S. Assessor John R. Gilbert was the first resident in 1864, followed by telegraph operator Hiram Brundage…

Coggswell - Taylor Cabins

The history of these two false-fronted cabins, joined by the 1890s, is interwoven with Virginia City’s African-American pioneers. The two separate, 1860s log cabins served both residential and commercial purposes. Minerva Coggswell acquired this…

Tootle, Leach & Company Warehouse

Thomas Tootle and Richard Leach formed a partnership, operating with various other partners in mercantile stores in Denver, Kansas City, here in Virginia City, and later in Deer Lodge. Tootle and Leach was one of Virginia City’s first businesses,…

Hargrave/Vanderbeck House

In the mid-1860s stores, hotels, and businesses lined both sides of Jackson Street near Idaho. The road was bustling with pedestrians and noisy teams of horses and wagons traveling on the toll road that led South to Summit. The Tootle, Leach &…

Thomas Francis Meagher Residence

General Thomas Francis Meagher, political activist in his native Ireland and American Civil War hero, stepped into a political maelstrom when he came to Montana in September 1865. As the first territorial secretary appointed by President Andrew…

Virginia City Methodist Church

Virginia City witnessed Montana’s first Methodist services in 1864. By 1874, however, too many residents had succumbed to “depraved and wicked conditions.” Well-known itinerant ministers Revs. W. W. Van Orsdel and T. C. Iliff, then resident pastors…

Mrs. Slade's House

Maria Virginia Slade was likely the first tenant of this modest dwelling owned by pioneer merchant/miner F. R. Merk. On March 19, 1864, Vigilantes hanged Jack Slade, swiftly carrying out the controversial sentence because they feared that the…

Virginia City Gymnasium

The Elling, Knight & Buford hardware store, located in the Masonic Temple, built this warehouse in July 1901. Although seemingly mundane, such storage buildings were essential to keeping Virginia City residents supplied with consumer goods. Even…

Daems House

Though simple by today’s standards, the Daems house exemplifies an upper-middle-class, early-1860s Virginia City dwelling. Dr. Levinus Daems and his wife Marie Daems, a nurse, may have been the first residents of the house. Born in Belgium and…

Moritz House (Alderine Hancock House)

This modest Greek Revival style dwelling, probably one of the first houses built here in the mid-1860s, features the classic elements of Virginia City’s earliest “high style” residences. Decorative pediments above the windows, clapboard siding,…

Henry Blake House (John Reed Residence)

Situated prominently along once-busy Idaho Street, this home is one of Virginia City’s earliest frame dwellings. The two-story portion—its windows capped by original wooden pediments—dates from 1864. Attorney and later Supreme Court judge Henry Blake…

Bennett House

New Yorker Alden J. Bennett, a versatile college educated engineer, arrived at Virginia City in 1870. After teaching, ranching, and bookkeeping, the energetic Bennett found his niche in banking, becoming a partner in the Hall and Bennett Bank in…

Cole / Batten House

This early home, built circa 1868 by C. E. Hill, was reputedly the site of Virginia City’s first Chinese wedding. The two-story section was originally finished in vertical siding, the eaves were trimmed in fancy latticework, and a small porch…

Raymond House

Eighteen-year-old Winthrop Raymond arrived in Virginia City from Missouri in 1865. He and his brother, Hillhouse, began a business hauling wood and building materials. Winthrop built this home soon after, perhaps on speculation. First owner B. F.…

Charles W. Rank House

Charles W. Rank arrived on the third train into Bozeman in 1883. There he launched a career in the drug store business that would span more than half a century. In 1884, he came to Virginia City to manage a small drug store. Partnering with his…

George Thexton House

A steeply pitched roof and windows with pointed arches reveal Gothic Revival style influence in this finely-crafted 1884 residence, built by George Thexton. The style, often adapted to the frontier in wood, is here expressed in stone as was the norm…

Corbett House

The cozy placement of the Corbett and Daems houses has long been a mystery in Virginia City. The log Corbett house was likely built in summer 1863, and the Daems house by early 1864. No records exist explaining why these two middle-class homes sit so…

Virginia City School

Professor Thomas Dimsdale, author of The Vigilantes of Montana, opened the first school in the gold camp in fall 1863. In 1864, a log cabin, built where the Methodist Church now stands, served for preaching on Sundays and school during the week.…

Elling House

Three elegant Gothic windows embellish this sprawling stone mansion built for wealthy banker Henry Elling in 1876. The Gothic style was already outdated by the 1870s, but in remote mining camps it served as a visual reminder of urban places far away.…

Raymond House

In the mid-1860s, the east end of Idaho Street, where this cabin once stood, was “suburban,” a place that families could settle away from the dust and noise of downtown. At first, most lived in small cabins like this one, but by the mid-1880s,…

Kohl's/Little Joe's Cabin

Carpenter Julius Kohls purchased this property in 1882, where he built a one-room log cabin and a combination wood shed and outhouse. In contrast to most of the town’s 1860s-era gold-rush log buildings, Kohls’ cabin does not have hand-notched logs…

Romey's Gardens / Bickford Place

Swiss-born Lucien Romey came to Virginia City in 1863 not to mine but to follow his former occupation as a truck gardener. He raised vegetables, which he sold all along the gulch and, keeping them fresh with wet gunny sacks, trucked his produce as…

J.S. Rockfellow House

The “finest house in Montana Territory” was completed in time for the wedding reception of prominent Virginia City grocer J. S. Rockfellow and his bride on January 29, 1867. Guests were transported by wagon to the “mansion on the hill” in a steady…

Samuel Word House

Virginia City’s first stone buildings emerged in mid-1864. Joseph Griffith and William Thompson opened a stone quarry in summer 1864 to build the Creighton Stone Block of rubblestone covered with stucco scored to look like dressed granite. Contents…

Gilbert Brewery

Montana Territory’s oldest brewery, founded in 1863, is today a rare example of once-common small town breweries. Though several additions to the 1860s building expanded the booming business, its exterior appearance remains unchanged from the 1880s.…

Gilbert Brewery Bottling Plant

Henry Gilbert and Christian Richter brought German-style lager beer to thirsty Virginia City miners in 1864 and began bottling it in this stone and brick building in 1875. For much of the nineteenth century, American brewers made a heavier,…

Leander Frary House

Dentist-turned-miner Leander W. Frary came to Virginia City with the gold rush to try his luck. He and his wife Alice owned interests in a number of lode claims. Frary, a prominent citizen, was among the founders of the Grand Lodge of Masons in…

Conrey Place

During Virginia City’s mid-1860s boom, residences and businesses crowded along Cover Street. Most commercial buildings were gone by the mid-1880s and the neighborhood became primarily residential. Irish immigrant Phillip Conrey, a rancher and…

Smith/McGovern Barn

Virginia City’s alleys, just like its main streets, hold many fine examples of territorial-era buildings. This barn, built for surgeon Dr. Ira Smith in 1874, represents a classic Montana horse barn. Virginia City’s earliest barns were built from…

Anna Lyon House / McKeen Place

Martin and Anna Lyon came to Virginia City by covered wagon in 1864 and settled into this small dwelling. Martin, a successful tailor, was on his way home in January of 1865 when thieves attacked and fatally struck him over the head. A blizzard…

Frisch / Ferguson Cabin

The Frisch/Ferguson cabin escaped collapse twice and survives as an excellent example of a one-room log dwelling meant to provide short term, basic shelter for prospectors. The cabin’s early history is unknown, but by 1874, miner Fred Frisch and his…

Hillside Cemetery

Seven hundred souls lie beneath the sod here in Virginia City’s community cemetery. Boot Hill across the ridge to the west was the first burial ground, but after interment of five road agents there in January 1864, citizens preferred to bury…

Hickman House

An 1868 lithograph drawn by artist Alfred Mathews shows a large commercial structure on this lot, but panoramic mapmaker E. L. Sheldon depicted the entire block occupied by single-family dwellings in 1875. Carpenter Gothic style trim originally…

Susie Marr House

The small-scale simplicity of Susie Marr’s house belies the owner’s rich life. Marr emigrated from Scotland in 1870. In Virginia City, she managed household affairs for banker, William Morris, his wife, and their six children. In turn, Morris took…