Missoula Mercantile Warehouse

Missoula Downtown Historic District

Established in 1866 under the name Bonner and Welch, the Missoula Mercantile Company quickly grew into an economic and political powerhouse. In 1890, the company handled about 60 percent of the city’s retail trade, worth $1.5 million. At the turn of the twentieth century, it was the largest mercantile business between Seattle and Minneapolis, operating Montana stores from Eureka to Bozeman. To help it handle its growing business, the mercantile built this warehouse a block east of its flagship store. Here it stored everything from farm implements and dry goods to electric pumps and crockery. An irrigation ditch known as the “Mill Race” once ran beneath the building through brick arches still visible on the interior and on the exterior’s west facade. The Mill Race brought water from Rattlesnake Creek to the town’s first grist mill located northeast of today’s Higgins Avenue Bridge. Missoula Mercantile constructed the western and middle sections of this warehouse between 1893 and 1902 and the eastern section between 1902 and 1912. Large stones on the building’s far western wall provide evidence of an even older stone warehouse that once adjoined this building. By the 1940s, Missoula Mercantile faced increasing competition from chain department stores. Company officials responded with an aggressive modernization campaign that included remodeling the warehouse. In 1948, the company hired noted stucco craftsman O. B. Parsons to update the warehouse’s front façade. Nevertheless, the business continued to lose market share and sold out to Allied Stores Corporation in 1959. 

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221, 229, and 231 East Front Street, Missoula, Montana ~ Private