Rustic Lens
old west building

The Hangman’s Building – Virginia City Montana

The Hangman’s Building in the ghost town of Virginia City Montana is now home to a custom hat shop, but it wasn’t always.  This building has quite the history.  On January 14th, 1864 the building was only partially complete.  It had the walls and a large ceiling beam but no roof yet.  When the vigilantes captured and tried 5 men, they found a use for the building.  The men were charged with murder and after a short trialthe vigilantes convicted them and marched them over to this building and strung them up on the beam.  After that it was a drugstore, a post office and in 1903 it was purchased by the Virginia City Water Works.  Sarah Bickford became owner of the water works when her husband die of pneumonia in 1900.  The remarkable thing about Sarah Bickford owning the public utility is that she was a woman and also happened to be black.  She was born into slavery in 1855 but became the first African-American to own a public utility in the United States.  There’s more history on the Hangman’s Building here.  I created the following photo by using Topaz Texture Effects, you can download a free trial and try it out and a new version is coming out September 27th.

old west photo

For quite a while I have wanted a good hat to help keep the rain and snow off my head, but I could never find one that looked right.  When I walked into the Hangman’s Building and talked to Dave Baker of Ritter Custom Hats, I decided to have him make me one.  Dave is an artisan and knows how to make a hat to compliment the shape of your face and make you look good.  I chose a hat blank and Dave got to work.

custom cowboy hat

It was right around closing time, but Dave didn’t mind.  He worked for over an hour trimming, steaming and shaping my hat just for me.  We had some good conversation and he guided me on the types of shapes as I looked through picture books of hats.

custom hat shaping
Dave prepared the hat for shaping with steam.

Since his business is in The Hangman’s Building, Dave gives his hats a special touch that I think is awesome!  He makes his hatbands with a hangman’s loop.

My wife Holly took an instagram pic of me in the hat later that night.  I’m not really a cowboy, but I play one on instagram. Lol.

If you find yourself in Virginia City and need a hat, I recommend going to see Dave.  Watch for my posts on Virginia City and Nevada City in the near future.  I took a bunch of great photos and am busy processing them.  Check out my FULL GALLERY from the Hangman’s Building.

Evan Jones

I am a landscape and travel photographer who is drawn to old and rusty stuff as well as beautiful landscapes. I like to explore the backroads of the Northwest United States and anywhere else I can get to. My blog is at


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