My aunt and uncle, Diane and George Bonk, came to visit Montana this summer. They spent one day visiting Yellowstone and the rest of the time exploring the local area. In fact, we believe this was the first time they took a week long vacation since their honeymoon, so I was very excited that they chose Montana to experience such a big adventure.
I took some time off of work and we all drove down to Virginia City…from their website:
All of Montana has the deepest pride and affection for Virginia City. No more colorful pioneer mining camp ever existed. Dramatic tales of the early days in this vicinity are legion. Rich placer diggings were discovered in Alder Gulch in the spring of 1863 and the stampede of gold seekers and their parasites was on! Sluices soon lined the gulch and various “cities” blossomed forth as trading and amusement centers for free handed miners. Virginia City, the best known of these and the sole survivor, became the Capitol of the Territory.
The very much alive ghost town, Virginia City, Montana, is frozen in time. It is a remarkably well preserved old west Victorian gold mining town just 20 miles west of Yellowstone National Park (90 miles by road). When the gold ran out, there was still enough left so that homes and businesses were occupied, but there was not enough wealth to remodel the buildings. So it froze, and now represents the whole Victorian era. It is the true and original Old West. It is a gem, held within an incredibly rich area of natural beauty, recreation and history.
For me, it was a little bit overwhelming because every single building in Virginia City was historical. When we first started walking around, I tried to stop and read every plaque, but I soon got worn out and stopped.
After we wandered around the town we went to see “Legend of Sleepy Hollow” at the Opera House, performed by the Virginia City Players. It was a very well put together production, but the highlight for me was the Cremona Photo Player…from their website:
Photo players are elaborate sound effects machines made for accompanying silent movies in the 1910s and 1920s. Our photoplayer includes a piano, flute, violin, bass pipes, xylophone, bass drum, crash cymball, tom tom, tympani, snare drum, sleigh bells, tambourine, castanets, cathedral chimes, triangle and train bell. All of the instruments are operated through a system of air tubes attached to the piano by pushing buttons, tapping on pedals and tugging on leather cords.
Photo players have a very low survival rate, because most were worn out from heavy use, and then became obsolete almost overnight when sound movies or “talkies” replaced silent films in the late 1920s. In 1950, our Photo player was discovered hidden behind a wall in a drugstore in Deer Lodge, Montana which was constructed when the original movie theater was remodeled for retail use.
The whole play was accompanied by the Cremona player, and the music was fantastic!