Jan 30, 2012

My Favorite Historic Place

by Kristin Baker Przybyla

There's a little place just over the hill from my town that's one of my favorite places ever: Virginia City, an old boomtown from the silver rush of the 1800's. It's famous as the literary birthplace of Mark Twain, and also the fictitious locale of the Ponderosa Ranch from the television show Bonanza. It also has quite a few famous restaurants and saloons, such the Bucket of Blood and the Silver Queen. But mainly, being a huge fan of the Victorian era, the Wild West, and everything vintage, I just go crazy over the historic architecture. Especially now, since my WIP is heavily Victorian-influenced, I love poring over pictures of Virginia City and visiting the place (when it's not too bitterly cold) for inspiration.

It's not Victorian England, but it's the closest you can get to it in this area!

St. Mary in the Mountains Catholic Church

SCBWI had a conference there a couple years ago, which was held both at the old 4th Ward School, now a museum, and the Mackay Mansion. I was in hog heaven.

The 4th Ward School

Most of these buildings are said to be haunted, including the Mackay Mansion. (TAPS and other television ghost hunters have done investigations around the town.) I couldn't find a nighttime picture of the Mackay Mansion, and really wish I'd taken one. The silence in the Virginia Foothills is eerie after dark, and driving down that long, spooky path toward the only lit building in the area was super creepy. I was glad to get inside where it was brightly lit and cheerful! Even with people around, the place had a creepy feeling to it--but by then I was having a blast and didn't care.

The Mackay Mansion

The historic cemetery is very old and fascinating to walk through. Some of the headstones are so worn you can barely make out the names and dates. Other grave markers are only made of wood. Forget reading the names on those!

Among all the antique stores, quirky museum tours, and other fun shops to visit, there's one place we always make a stop: Grandma's Fudge (the shop just to the left of the Silver Queen).

And I love walking past these cool buildings teetering at the edge of a steep hill. (Like many tourist attractions, the back streets can be even more interesting to explore than the main streets.) They look almost ready to fall, but have withstood time and weather for a hundred years or more. This picture doesn't even do the view justice.

This vintage photograph shows that not much has changed about the old boomtown in a long time, except for the dramatic decrease in population and the shift from mining city to tourist attraction.

If you have about 11 minutes to spare, check out the silly video we made in Virginia City for Lia's senior project last year! (And stick around for the bloopers at the end.) See if you recognize some of the city's famous landmarks. Unfortunately, since it was a less-cold-than-usual early spring day, there were a lot of tourists, so we couldn't do too much filming along the main street.

Do you guys have any favorite places in your area that you'd love to share?


  1. Honestly, I have walking trails in my back yard that i get my inspiration from. I would post a picture but it will not allow me here.

    I love in my hometown area, The meadow of Bufflo Park in Flag and Walnut Canyon.

    Where I am now, I love the coastal towns, Long Beach, Newport and Ocean Shores

  2. Hands down it's Yorktown for me. The historic significance pales when I walk there. I really do feel I am walking on sacred ground.

  3. Oh! I've been there. I was at a conference for work, and it was the location for the conference event. Cold spell hit us in late May and we FROZE! But it's a delightful place, and we got to take a tour.

    I got a leather coat for $20.

  4. Our first high school was situated in the historical Yuma Territorial Prison. Of course this was after they didn't hold prisoners any longer, although I'm not so sure the kids didn't see themselves that way. Even today, decades after the high school moved from the prison, the mascot is still "The Criminals." Unique to say the least. Your video looks like it could've been made in our old down town. The buildings are so similar. So was the graveyard. Your kids looked like they had a blast!

    Loved the bloopers!

  5. Virginia City looks like a place I would enjoy visiting. Your kids look like they had fun making the video. I like the Greek mythology with an old west twist.

  6. I'm in Reno so Virginia City isn't that far from me I love it so much I had my wedding at Piper's Opera House I keep bugging my husband to go back every year. It's a place I want to be able to share with my boys as they get older. Such a beautiful place and the people are really nice.


Thank you for visiting. Feel free to comment on our blogger's posts.*

*We do not allow commercial links, however. If that's not clear, we mean "don't spam us with a link to your totally unrelated-to-writing site." We delete those comments.