Virginia City Historic Architecture Inventory Collection
In 2021, cataloguing efforts within the Dick Pace Archives of the Thompson-Hickman Library discovered a complete copy of the report, including photographic slides from the original field surveys. Shortly thereafter, the Thompson-Hickman Library Board retained Jim Jarvis – a local historian, to update the report to reflect changes to the historic community over the past 32 years and expand awareness of these materials through digitization and online access. The project was funded by an ARPA grant provided by the Montana State Library in support of the Montana Memory Project.
The 1990 Virginia City Historic Architecture Inventory Report, commissioned by the Montana State Historic Preservation Office (MT SHPO), was prepared by Paul Friedman with Dames & Moore, a cultural resource management firm located in Denver, Colorado. The report documented the historic resources of Virginia City in support of the Virginia City National Historic Landmark District (NHLD) and subsequent National Register of Historic Places designations, from 1961 and 1976 respectively. Much of the actual field work was performed by local Montana historians, including John Ellingsen, a longtime resident of Virginia City and employee of Bovey Restorations, Inc.
Over the course of several months in the late-1980s, 237 individual properties of various ages and historic significance within the community were identified and recorded. In addition, 49 remote mining sites within a 1-mile radius were subjected to archaeological investigation. These findings, including individual property survey forms with site photos, a comprehensive context narrative, and a detailed inventory results map were compiled into a final report. Of the 237 properties surveyed, 73 (30%) were determined to be non-contributing properties, i.e. “not historic”. The remaining 164 properties fell into two specific “historic” categories, depending on their period of construction, either, Significant (early VC, 1863-76) or Contributing (1877-1920). Post-1920 building or structures, or severely altered historic properties, were deemed non-contributing to the local historic context.
The original report was initiated during a dynamic period in Virginia City’s development – the waning years of the Bovey family’s 50-year effort to preserve and promote the historic resources of Virginia City, Montana. By 1990, both Charlie and Sue Bovey had passed away leaving the fate of this unique collection of historic properties uncertain. The report was commissioned as a precautionary effort to document the resource before it was potentially compromised.
Per this 2022 update, the entire community of Virginia City, including the 237 original properties surveyed in 1990 plus 60 new homes and businesses, was re-surveyed and photographed. For each of the original properties, a one-page supplemental survey form was created to reflect the original and current common names of the property and any major changes/alterations. The condition of each property was documented with current site photos. Similar documentation was prepared for each new building constructed since 1990. Refer to the 1990 Final and 2020 Update Reports for a summary of these survey results.
The 1990 Virginia City Architectural Inventory Results Map was created to facilitate locating a given property. Each property was assigned a specific site number corresponding to the block in which the building was located and the number of primary buildings within that block. Block numbers are based on the 274 individual blocks described in the original 1868 town plat, shown above. These naming and numbering conventions can be utilized to locate a specific property and compare the 1990 and 2022 findings. For example, Bob’s Place a property located at the intersection of Wallace and Jackson Streets, also known historically as Content’s Corner, was assigned the site number 193-1 corresponding to building 1 within Block 193.
The easiest way to locate information on a specific property within the Collection is the search tab on the MMP home page. Type in “Virginia City Historic Architecture Inventory Collection” and then stroll through the individual properties listed below alphabetically by their common name, or consult the Inventory Results Map or the Building Inventory List on page 83 of the 1990 Final Report to determine the specific Collection ID#, Site Number, Common Name, or adjacent street name for a given property. The Refine Search Terms option can then be used to pull up information on that specific property.
Based on this inventory data, detailed narratives explaining the significance of Virginia City’s historic resources are included in the 1990 and 2022 project reports. Contributing InstitutionThompson-Hickman Library
1990 - Final Report of the Architectural, Historical and Archaeological Inventory of the Virginia City National Historic Landmark Madison County, Montana
2022 Update Report - Architectural, Historical and Archaeological Inventory of the Virginia City National Historic Landmark Madison County, Montana