F.R. Merk Block

Virginia City National Historic Landmark District

Gold dust was the common currency when George Higgins built this sturdy “fire-proof stone” business block circa 1866. F. R. Merk leased the new building for his mercantile, advertising fancy and staple groceries, liquors, household implements, and a tin shop with “prices to suit the times.” Merk bought the building for $1,800 in 1867 but soon went back to mining. Harrington, Baker & Company sold boots and shoes here during the 1870s, and E. L. Smith located his department store here in the late 1880s. Before Prohibition in 1918, this was the Little Club Saloon. Like other such businesses, the club switched to advertising soft drinks until saloons were again legal in 1933. The present Pioneer Bar has served as a popular gathering place since 1947. Previous owners changed the façade in the 1960s so the building better matched tourists’ ideas of the Old West. A 2010 renovation restored this gold rush–era landmark to its original 1860s appearance. The owners uncovered and restored the façade’s original fanlight transoms, reconstructed the second-floor casement windows, and re-installed original wooden cornice brackets discovered in the attic.

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210 West Wallace Street, Virginia City, Montana ~ Private