Latitude / Longitude:
5,761 ft (1,756 m)
Mountain (MST) (UTC-7)
Virginia City is a town in and the county seat of Madison County, Montana, United States. In 1961 the town and the surrounding area were designated a National Historic Landmark District, the Virginia City Historic District. The population was 190 at the 2010 census.
In May 1863, a group of prospectors were headed toward the Yellowstone River and instead came upon a party of the Crow tribe and was forced to return to Bannack. On May 26, 1863, Bill Fairweather and Henry Edgar discovered gold near Alder Creek. The prospectors could not keep the site a secret and were followed on their return to the gold bearing site. A mining district was set up in order to formulate rules about individual gold claims. On June 16, 1863 under the name of “Verina” the township was formed a mile south of the gold fields. The name was intended to honor Varina Howell Davis, the first and only First Lady of the Confederate States of America during the American Civil War. Verina, although in Union territory, was founded by men whose loyalties were thoroughly Confederate. Upon registration of the name, a Connecticut judge, G. G. Bissell, objected to their choice and recorded it as Virginia City.
The Historic District of Virginia City and Nevada City is currently operated by the Montana Historic Commission and is the top state-owned tourist attraction in Montana. The Commission operates gold panning, a historic hotel, and the longest continuously operating live summer theater company in the western United States. Virginia City also has a Boothill Cemetery. The 2 ft 6 in (762 mm) narrow gauge Alder Gulch Short Line Railroad transports passengers by rail to the nearby ghost town of Nevada City, Montana, and back.
In the 1940s, Charles and Sue Bovey began buying the town, putting much needed maintenance into failing structures. The ghost town of Virginia City began to be restored for tourism in the 1950s. Most of the city is now owned by the state government and is a National Historic Landmark operated as an open-air museum. Of the nearly three hundred structures in town, almost half were built prior to 1900. Buildings in their original condition with Old West period displays and information plaques stand next to thoroughly modern diners and other amenities.