Thursday, August 25, 2016

Ghost Town Side Trip - Virginia City, Montana

Dianne here -- Roger asked me to write this blog entry because -- let's face it -- he's just not that into history.   If you feel the same way, you may skip this blog entry; I promise Roger will be back next time!

From Bozeman we took a slight detour to Ennis, Montana for a two-night stay at Ennis RV Village.
We have mountain views out every window (which also means no tv signals).   The sites are spacious and the place is well-managed with a good feel to it.  

They have mowed a series of trails through the grass prairie at the edge of the park which our doggies have enjoyed. We enjoyed them, too, with views like these:
It really is Big Sky country!

The ever-present herds of cattle reminded us that we are indeed in Montana... 

The haze on the mountains is from the fire currently blazing in West Yellowstone.   We don't smell the smoke, but it makes for hazy views and colorful sunsets.

Our main purpose for visiting Ennis, Montana was to drive over the mountain (in the car) to tour Virginia City.   Virginia City was formed during the gold rush in the 1860s.  Within weeks thousands of prospectors and fortune seekers had settled into the town.  
Wooden sidewalks throughout town.

Here's a street scene as the town appeared in 1878:

And a portion of the same street today:  You can make out the cupola of the courthouse on the left in both photos. 

Virginia City was even the capital of the territory for a period of about 10 years, before the capital was moved to Helena.

As with most boom towns, it eventually fell on hard times and suffered from neglect and ruin.   In the 1940s, a wealthy couple named Charles and Sue Bovey, who shared an interest in history and ghost towns, visited Virginia City.   While there, they witnessed some of the wood being harvested from the historic buildings and used as firewood by the few remaining residents.  They began buying up the dilapidated buildings and began much needed maintenance and repairs to save the town from further ruin. 

 Virginia City is now maintained by the State of Montana, and has been designated a National Historic Landmark operated as an open-air museum.  

There is much more to see and do than just walk around the town.   Unfortunately, our schedule brought us here on a Monday -- bad planning, because several of the restaurants, shops, and performance venues are closed on Mondays (we found out after arriving).   If you plan better than we did and come on a day other than Monday, you can take in a variety of plays, music performances, and a comedic show called the Brew House Follies, which had come highly recommended to us.  (They normally do perform on Mondays but we happened to hit the day of their charity golf tournament.)

A nearby restored town, Nevada City, features costumed interpreters to narrate life as it was back in the day.   There is a short open-air train ride there from Virginia City.   We skipped it because we discovered that the interpreters are not there on Mondays.

Even on Monday, there was plenty to see to keep us busy for several hours.  My favorite shop was Cousins Candy Shop.  As a kid, whenever I had change in my pocket, I promptly blew it all on candy.   

In this awesome candy shop, you could pick from a huge assortment of unusual and/or old favorite types of candy, fill a bag, and just pay by the weight of the bag.   I was like the proverbial kid in a candy store!   One candy I did not pick was a clear yellowish-colored tequila-flavored sucker, complete with worm inside.   The worm looked a little too realistic to me (I still think it was a real worm).

One very interesting shop included authentic vintage styles of clothing that could be purchased, along with a display of dress patterns in authentic antique styles.   This brought back memories of when our older daughter, Robyn, was in high school and had a part in the play "Look Homeward, Angel."  She needed an Edwardian dress, which I sewed for her using a vintage pattern like these that I'd found on vacation in St. Louis.  

If you have a hoop skirt, I know where you can purchase a petticoat.   It took up so much room in the shop that they hung it from the ceiling!

They even sell old-fashioned bonnets.

In addition to the gift shops, there were many buildings which simply housed displays of antique furnishings and merchandise, like the buggies and fire wagon above, and the one-horse open sleigh below:

I found the old general store especially interesting:

I loved the old display bins for coffee, spices, and teas. 

 Then there were the usual canned goods....

One building housed a vintage display which had an entire inventory of men's and women's undergarments at one end of the counter....

and women's hats, bags, and old doll heads at the other end.  The curators must have come upon an entire old inventory, because they were obviously authentic goods in original packaging.

I placed my camera lens right on a display case to capture this inventory of antique hair pins and combs:

Once you've outfitted with undergarments, there is a complete store display of men's clothing...

Most of the buildings retained their original tin ceilings...

Here's another vintage photo showing a long stone  building with arched windows.

And the same building today....

One building housed an interesting display of old arcade machines, including nickelodeons...

Music machines and fortune tellers....

The mercantile contained an interesting display of fabrics and staples.   I could almost imagine shopping there in pioneer days....

 A small post office was tucked in a corner of the mercantile...

 Roger has a weakness for good ice cream, and he had read about a shop in Virginia City with homemade ice cream:

We knew we were in for a treat when we saw the old fashioned ice cream churns humming away on one side of the shop:

It was every bit as good as it looks!

The bigger one is mine, by the way, "almond joy" flavored, with lots of chocolate and coconut bits.
Roger had cookies and cream, filled with lots of Oreo cookie chunks.

After dessert we stopped for lunch at Bob's Homemade Pizza -- also delicious.   (That's where I found the old photos of the town.) 

  Then after lunch, Roger wanted to have a beer in the Bale of Hay Saloon, "Montana's Oldest Watering Hole" according to their menu. 

It sounds like we did this in reverse order...dessert, then lunch, then drinks but, hey, we're retired and we can do whatever we want!

One last stroll back down the street and we were done.  

Next stop -- Salt Lake City, where I plan to spend quality time at the Family History Library.   Roger is looking forward to several days where he'll be "free as a bird."   

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