Monday, January 30, 2012

Virginia City Mansion

On a gently sloping plateau overlooking Alder Gulch, J. S. Rockfellow built the fanciest, most modern home yet constructed in Montana Territory. It was completed in time for his wedding, an affair attended by more than 150 guests in January of 1867. James Knox Polk Miller, who clerked for Rockfellow’s grocery business, described the wedding which took place at the home of W. Y. Lovell in Virginia City. Miller observed that the room was very small, the bride very little, and the ceremony very short. Carriages then conveyed the guests in their silks and finery to the mansion on the hill. The house, described in the Montana Post, had seven well-warmed, well-lit, and well-ventilated rooms, a luxury for sure at that time. Designed with an eye to convenience and beauty, the wall paper and furnishings were in the best of taste. The parlor was furnished in walnut, the dining room in oak, and the bed chambers in rosewood. There were frescoed ceilings and mountain scenery in water colors painted on the walls that, according to the reporter, spread through the house like “oriental pearls of random string.” There was a system of delightfully pure spring water piped directly into the house—the first running water in Montana. The same water source fed a beautiful fountain in the yard. The house, with its tidy outbuildings perched upon the hill, appeared to locals as a grand estate like no other. Unfortunately, within a year, Rockfellow died and the house on the hill fell into other hands. It still stands in Virginia City above Cover Street, an unoccupied eerie relic reminiscent of a tragic past.

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