Three Historic Inns in Garnet, Bannack & Virginia City
Check into-or at least check out-these three interesting historic hotels set in the ghost towns of Montana.
Garnet, Montana, named for the ruby-colored stones found in the mountains, was once a thriving mining camp. Founded in 1895, by 1898 Garnet had 1,000 residents. By 1905, the population had dwindled to around 150. In the early days, Garnet got its share of travelers, even though the town was snowed in most of the winter months. The stage brought businessmen and miners looking for a place to spend the night.
The Wells hotel offered two hot meals and a private room for $2.00 a night. The third floor had no furnishings, and a miner could lay down his bedroll for a dollar. The “rooms” were designated by markings on the wood floor.The Wells Hotel closed in the 1930s. The interior still holds antique furnishings. A dilapidated fainting couch remains in the parlor with its peeling wallpaper. The downstairs rooms furnished with iron bedsteads and dressers seem waiting for guests.
The town of Garnet is now managed by The Bureau of Land Management. The sites are preserved rather than restored, so the authenticity of the buildings remain unchanged. Garnet can be reached only by dirt road. It is best approached from the north, off MT 200, or from 1-90 west of Drummond. In the winter Garnet is accessible only by snowmobile.
The Meade Hotel: Bannack
Bannack started out as the first territorial capital of Montana. During the 1862 gold strike, it boasted a population of more than 10,000. Bannack had the reputation of being one of the West’s most violent towns. The beautiful, red-brick hotel Meade Hotel, stands in stark contrast among the remaining wood and frame structures of Bannack.
The hotel was constructed in 1875 and served as the County Courthouse until the county seat was lost to Dillon in 1881. The building stood empty until 1890, when it was purchased by Dr. Meade and was operated as a hotel and social center until the 1940s. This well-preserved building still holds traces of its former grandeur. Wallpaper clings to the now-empty rooms. A huge, spiral staircase inspires visions of the past. Visitors have reported seeing ghostly ladies from bygone days walking the hallways or peering from an upstairs window.
The town of Bannack is one of the most well-preserved ghost towns in the state. To reach the park, take Interstate 15 SW of Dillon, then Highway 278, then follow the sign over four miles of gravel road to Bannack.
The Fairweather Inn: Virginia City
When gold was discovered in Alder Creek in 1863, around 10,000 people moved into the area. Virginia City became the largest settlement around, and was Montana’s capital from 1865 to 1875. Virginia City was a main social and transportation center for the region until after 1900. The two neighboring cities of Virginia City and Nevada City, less than a mile apart, have become a lively summer tourist attraction
The Fairweather Inn, once the site of the earlier Anaconda Hotel, sits in the heart of Virginia City. It was modeled after the Goodrich House, which was the first hotel in Bannack and possibly the first commercial hotel in Montana. The Fairweather Inn is still open to guests. Here, you can get a taste of Victorian elegance. The fifteen rooms are furnished with Western decor, and the graceful parlor is filled with lovely period antiques. Virginia City and neighboring Nevada City are south of Butte on highway 287. For more information and reservations call these numbers: (406) 843-5377 or (800) 648-7588.
The days of two hot meals and a private room for two bucks are gone forever. But stopping to view the historic hotels in Garnet and Bannack, and considering a night’s stay-over in the Fairweather Inn, gives one a taste of how travel was in bygone days.