Filed Under Fort Benton

Grand Union Hotel

Fort Benton Historic District

This grandiose, three-story Italianate style hotel welcomed weary river travelers to the Gateway of the Northwest, offering guests a luxurious refuge before setting out for less civilized destinations. Its opening in 1882 came at the end of the steamboat era, when Fort Benton was still an unchallenged commercial hub. The very next year, however, the Northern Pacific transcontinental line was completed across Montana, diminishing the town’s position as a commercial center. Constructed of soft local brick with intricate corbelling and distinctive windows, the “Waldorf of the West” featured a saloon, dining room, a saddle room for cowboys to store their gear in winter, and a secret lookout room where guards could supervise gold shipments. A separate ladies’ stairway led to elegant parlors since women never entered rooms adjoining saloons. Each room had handsome black walnut, marble-topped furnishings and, originally, its own woodstove and fancy chimney. From its vantage point near the docks, the Grand Union presided over the arrival of everything from stamp mills to grand pianos, brought by steamboat and transferred to ox-team freight wagons. The fine design by architect Thomas Tweedy reflects a prosperous and optimistic town, unaware of the imminent coming of the railroad and its disastrous effects on the town’s economy.

Images

Grand Union Hotel, Fort Benton, MT View of reception desk in lobby. Digital photograph. Source: Montana Historical Society Creator: Joe Furshong, photographer Date: June 2019
Grand Union Hotel Grand Union Hotel, facing east from the north bank of the Missouri River, front view from afar. Source: MontanaPictures.net Creator: MontanaPictures.net Date: June 2005
Grand Union Hotel Grand Union Hotel. Close view of the front entry to the building, facing southeast on 14th Street near the intersection of 14th and Front Street. Digital photograph. Source: Montana Historical Society Creator: Joe Furshong Date: June-Aug. 2019
Grand Union Hotel Grand Union Hotel. Close view of the side entry on the corner of 14th Street and Front Street, facing south. Digital photograph. Source: Montana Historical Society Creator: Joe Furshong Date: June-Aug. 2019
Grand Union Hotel Grand Union Hotel. Front view of the building, facing southwest near the Shep Memorial in the park off of 14th Street and Front Street. Digital photograph. Source: Montana Historical Society Creator: Joe Furshong Date: June-Aug. 2019
Grand Union Hotel Grand Union Hotel. Front to side view of the building, facing south to southeast on the corner of 14th Street and Front Street. Digital photograph. Source: Montana Historical Society Creator: Joe Furshong Date: June-Aug. 2019
Grand Union Hotel Grand Union Hotel. Side view of the building, facing southeast on Front Street near the intersection of Front and 14th Street. Digital photograph. Source: Montana Historical Society Creator: Joe Furshong Date: June-Aug. 2019
Grand Union Hotel, Fort Benton, MT View of lobby interior looking toward front entrance. Digital photograph. Source: Montana Historical Society Creator: Joe Furshong, photographer Date: June 2019
Grand Union Hotel, Fort Benton, MT View of restaurant interior looking toward front entrance. Digital photograph. Source: Montana Historical Society Creator: Joe Furshong, photographer Date: June 2019
Grand Union Hotel, streetview (blank verso) b&w print Source: Official records of the Montana State Historic Preservation Office, Helena, Montana Creator: Unidentified photographer Date: ca. 1978

Location

704 14th Street, Fort Benton | Private

Metadata

The Montana National Register Sign Program, “Grand Union Hotel,” Historic Montana, accessed December 1, 2022, https://historicmt.org/items/show/229.