Friday, November 23, 2012

Thanksgiving at the Madison House 1903

If you're tired of eating turkey after yesterday's feast, you might want to try out some of these dishes...

The Madison House was Virginia City’s best hotel from the 1890s into the twentieth century. The hotel consisted of seven connected buildings, all at slightly different levels. For this reason it was nicknamed the seven-story hotel.

“Seven Story Hotel.”  Sanborn-Perris Map Company, Virginia City  1907.
Proprietors F. W. Allen and Dennis Mahagin set a nice table in the early 1900s. On Thanksgiving Day in 1903, the Madisonian invited those who might be unfortunate to be away from their own family firesides not to let the day pass without enjoying a good dinner. The Madison House prepared an especially elaborate meal, which was served between 4:00 in the afternoon and 8:00 in the evening. The published menu for Thanksgiving was indeed a delectable one. The first course included New York or fresh oysters, cole slaw, or consommé, and relishes. The salad course included lobster salad in mayonnaise. For the main course, diners could choose baked salmon, boiled ox tongue in wine sauce, roast prime rib of beef, roast goose with baked apples, macaroni in red wine—presumably for vegetarian guests—and of course, young turkey with oyster dressing, cranberry jelly, and pineapple sherbet. The choice of vegetables included mashed and steamed potatoes, braised sweet potatoes, French peas, or asparagus on toast. For dessert the offerings included mince pie, sliced green apple pie, English plum pudding with brandy sauce, walnut ice cream, assorted cakes, and grapes, cheese, apples and mixed nuts. The Madison House closed as the town declined in the 1920s, and its seven buildings were later torn down. The memory of that wonderful Thanksgiving dinner in 1903 is preserved only in the archives of the local newspaper.


  1. I have just finished an oral interview with an old time Virginia City resident and your article put me right back in the moment. Thanks.