Filed Under Missoula

Missoula Downtown Historic District

In 1865, Christopher Higgins, Francis Worden, and David Pattee constructed grist and lumber mills near where the Mullan Road (now Front Street) intersected with present day Higgins Avenue. Worden’s 1874 Carpenter Gothic home on East Pine, once a quiet residential street, commemorates this early period. Arrival of the Northern Pacific Railroad in 1883 brought new growth. Soon Western Commercial style hotels and business blocks lined Missoula’s streets, including the brick-paved Railroad Street. Noteworthy architect-designed buildings from the period included the Tudor style Missoula Hotel, the Richardsonian Romanesque style Higgins Block, and the eclectic expansion of the Missoula Mercantile (originally constructed in 1877). The economic Panic of 1893 stilled Missoula’s development. After 1900, economic recovery fostered a new building boom, especially after the 1908 arrival of the Milwaukee Road, Missoula’s second railway. High style façades topped with elaborate cornices signified the city’s coming of age. Classical civic buildings from the era include the A. J. Gibson-designed 1903 Carnegie Library and 1910 County Courthouse. Architects of statewide and regional note designed other landmark buildings within the district, including the 1910 neoclassical Independent Telephone Company, the 1921 Sullivanesque Wilma Theater, the 1937 Art Deco Zip Auto Building, and the 1941 Moderne Florence Hotel. Construction slowed during the Great Depression, but two large public works projects—the 1936 Forest Service Regional Headquarters and a 1937 addition to Missoula’s Federal Building and Courthouse—demonstrated the federal government’s importance to Missoula’s economy. The preservation of these and almost 400 other buildings in the fifty-two block district record Missoula’s history on its streets.

Images

Higgins Avenue, Missoula, M. T., Looking North View of Higgins Avenue, Missoula, Montana, looking north from the intersection of Higgins Ave. and Front Street. The newly built original Florence Hotel is on the left of view with a horse-drawn wagon parked in front. Missoula Mercantile Company building (now demolished) is on the right. Source: 949-484, Montana Historical Society Research Center Photograph Archives, Helena, MT. Creator: Unknown photographer Date: 1888
Missoula Downtown Historic District View of Missoula looking north on Higgins Avenue with its intersection with Main Street, photograph taken from a rooftop looking down on the street. Power line poles visible on right side of street. Source: Montana Memory Project Creator: Unidentified photographer Date: ca. 1891
Missoula Downtown Historic District View across the rooftops of downtown Missoula looking towards Waterworks Hill and the Rattlesnake Valley to the north, northeast. Source: Montana Memory Project Creator: Dorian Studio Date: ca. 1915
Front Street looking west toward Higgins Avenue, Missoula, Montana. View of Front Street, Missoula, Montana, looking west toward the intersection of Higgins Ave. and Front St. The original Florence Hotel is in the distance on the right. Missoula Mercantile Co. on the middle right of view. A man sitting in a horse-drawn carriage is also on the right. Numerous bicycles are seen parked on the sidewalks. Source: 949-481, Montana Historical Society Research Center Photograph Archives, Helena, MT. Creator: Unknown photographer Date: ca. 1903
Front Street looking west from Baltic Street, Missoula, Montana View of Front Street, Missoula, Montana, looking west from Baltic Street. The original Florence Hotel is in the distance on the right. Missoula Mercantile Co. on the middle right of view. Rankin Hotel on the near left with their carriage parked in front. Numerous horse-drawn carriages in the dirt street or parked along the side of the street. Man riding bicycle in middle of the street in the distance. From 'The University City, (1905). Source: 949-482, Montana Historical Society Research Center Photograph Archives, Helena, MT. Creator: Ingalls, F. M. (Frank M.), 1861-1934 Date: 1905
Early automobile touring group posed on Higgins Avenue in front of the Florence Hotel, Missoula, Montana. View of an early automobile touring group posed on Higgins Avenue in front of the Florence Hotel, Missoula, Montana. Dozens of men and women gather around behind the cars and sit in the cars. Missoula Drug Company and The Club Saloon visible in the background near theintersection of Higgins Ave. and Front Street. Note on verso states, 'Touring visitors at Missoula, Mont., Ready for trip to Hamilton, circa 1907.' Source: 949-483, Montana Historical Society Research Center Photograph Archives, Helena, MT Creator: Unknown photographer Date: 1907
Missoula Downtown Historic District People lined up along Higgins Avenue at the intersection of Broadway. Several people crossing the street and several cars and trucks can be seen on the brick street. Facing north on Higgins Avenue, a scene from downtown Missoula, Montana. Source: Montana Memory Project Creator: John Karkanen Date: ca. 1940's
Missoula Downtown Historic District A view of downtown Missoula from the Missoula County Courthouse dome, looking east towards Mount Jumbo. Source: Montana Memory Project Creator: Stan Healy Date: Jan. 1956
Missoula Downtown Historic District A view of downtown Missoula from the Missoula County Courthouse dome, looking east past the Palace Hotel towards Mount Sentinel. Source: Montana Memory Project Creator: Stan Healy Date: Jan. 1956
Missoula Downtown Historic District Missoula Downtown Historic District. Overview of the historic district located in downtown Missoula, Montana, facing north on Higgins Avenue towards Interstate 90 near the intersection of Front Street. Source: Montana State Historic Preservation Office Creator: Philip Maechling Date: Aug. 2010

Location

Roughly bounded by Northern Pacific Railroad, Clak Fork River, Little McCormick Park and Madison Street, Missoula, Montana | Private/Public

Metadata

The Montana National Register Sign Program, “Missoula Downtown Historic District,” Historic Montana, accessed February 9, 2023, https://historicmt.org/items/show/2181.