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Northwest of Yellowstone, Nevada City recalls Montana's 1863 gold rush.

Northwest of Yellowstone, Nevada City recalls Montana's 1863 gold rush

At first glance, Nevada City, Montana, seems too good to be true. Nestled on the north side of State Highway 287, about a 2-hour drive from Yellowstone National Park, it looks like a town that hasn't changed in a century.

Here are the post office, barber shop, general store; there are the schoolhouse, livery stable, firehouse. Stretching up a grassy hill, old log cabins cluster in various states of disrepair. Your first impression is that Nevada City, like Virginia City nearby, is a true remnant of the 1863 Alder Gulch gold strike.

But something isn't quite right.

On closer scrutiny, the random location of some buildings, the lack of a main street, the spacing of the houses give the place away. It's not a former boom town, but a recently assembled collection.

It all started in the 1940s, when Charles and Sue Bovey began procuring memorabilia from Montana's gold rush. The collection expanded to include historic buildings, first from Nevada City and Virginia City, then others from around the state-- many threatened with demolition.

While there isn't much left of the original Nevada City, these restored buildings from the last third of the 19th century are well worth a visit.

Boardwalks and grassy streets lead you past shops that look as if they closed only yesterday. In Hoffman's Barber Shop (moved from Elkhorn), the personalized shaving mugs of local gentry still rest in a special wall case. The 1867 schoolhouse (from Twin Bridges) has desks for 18 children. Sullivan and Goss Saddlers (from Fort Benton) carries packages of Capitol Stock Food, Mica Axle Grease, and Prussian Worm Powder.

In the big barn just outside the entry gate, a delightful din blasts from more than a dozen automated band organs. The most impressive--the gaudily painted Gavioli --booms with the force of 50 musicians. Stand back after you put a quarter in the Wurlitzer Horn Machine.

While admission to the barn is free, the ghost town costs $2 for adults and $1 for students; children under 12 are free. Buildings are open daily from 9 A.M. to 8 P.M., May 23 to September 15.

Visitors who want to spend more time in the area can ride the tiny cars of the Alder Gulch Short Line ($3 round trip for ages 12 and up) to Virginia City, where souvenir shops and ice cream parlors impose modern reality on vintage buildings. On any night, you can catch a melodrama ($7.50) or a variety show ($6.50) by the Virginia City Players. The train and theater operate June 13 through Labor Day. For theater reservations or information on special events in both towns, including the Black Powder Rendezvous of mountain men June 27 through 29, write or call Bovey Restorations, Box 338, Virginia City 59755; (406) 843-5377.

Photo: Boardwalk-fronted log cabins, rescued from all over Montana, stretch below balustraded balcony of the Oscar Sedman house--one of many you can tour

Photo: A day's side trip (about 90 miles) from West Yellowstone, Nevada City is 65 miles south of Interstate 90

Photo: Horse collars, saddles, and a battered lamp crowd the ceiling of Sullivan and Goss Saddlers. Small stove supplied the heat
COPYRIGHT 1986 Sunset Publishing Corp.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1986 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:Sunset
Date:Jul 1, 1986
Words:539
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