Arvon Block

During the busy 1890s, Great Falls’ business district swarmed with activity. City boosters such as pioneer rancher Robert Vaughn expressed confidence in the town’s future by investing in commercial real estate. Vaughn commissioned an unknown designer to create this unusual combination stable and hotel. The Axtell Stables occupied the western portion of this splendid 1890 Renaissance-inspired building. Montana’s most complete livery stable provided passenger, express, draying, and transfer services. While basement stalls accommodated fifty-eight horses, ground-floor harness and carriage showrooms displayed the newest equipment. Stable hands shared second-floor sleeping quarters with huge hay chutes that ran to the basement. On the east, a three-story boardinghouse boasted forty rooms for offices and lodgings. The Derrig Fruit Company had moved into the main floor area below the hotel by 1895, and in that year, the company paid out over $76,000 in freight charges alone. Shipped by rail to the station a block away, the goods were no doubt then delivered to Derrig’s by Axtell’s wagons. One of few local Victorian-era commercial structures to have escaped natural and manmade destruction, this “grand old survivor” recalls the necessity of horse-drawn services before the advent of the automobile.

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114-118 1st Avenue South, Great Falls, Montana ~ Private