Main Street Historic District, Bozeman

Leading wagon trains to the booming gold camps of Bannack and Virginia City, miner-turned-guide John Bozeman recognized the agricultural potential of the Gallatin Valley. At his direction in 1864, William Beall and Daniel Rouse laid out a townsite. The new town of Bozeman soon became a crucial supply center for nearby Fort Ellis and for those heading further west. When designation of Yellowstone Park brought a promise of renown to the region in 1872, Bozeman already boasted a telegraph line, a newspaper, a bank, and a school. The impressive brick Cooper Block dominated Main Street's log and frame buildings. The first major building boom along Main Street occurred when the tracks of the Northern Pacific Railroad reached Bozeman in 1883. Town incorporation soon followed. Two-story brick buildings with pressed metal cornices, huge glass storefronts, and recessed entries characterize this early building phase. A decade later electric street lights, street cars, and the grand Romanesque-inspired Bozeman Hotel urbanized the streetscape. Bozeman prospered as a regional commercial center. After 1900, Main Street expanded to the south and west, acquiring further stylistic diversity. The terra cotta-fronted Fechter Hotel and the Art Deco style Baxter Hotel, both designed by local architect Fred Willson, exemplify this architectural variety and the continued focus on Main Street businesses. Despite earthquake damage in 1925 and brightly lit modern storefronts which draw attention away from some vintage upper stories, Main Street's buildings chronicle Bozeman's emergence as the undisputed economic and cultural center of the rich Gallatin Valley.

29 East Main Street

The maturing streetscape that greeted early rail passengers to Bozeman included a distinctive group of three brick buildings on East Main Street. The smallest, last constructed, and most lavish of these was this Italianate structure completed in…

226-232 East Main Street

An 1884 map shows a wooden block with a trio of businesses here: a saloon, variety theatre, and fruit market. By 1912, the building housed a secondhand store. Sometime before 1927, the old wooden block was torn down, replaced by this one-story brick…

17-19 South Tracy Avenue

Bozeman’s premier architect Fred Willson designed this double storefront building with three apartments upstairs in 1928. Known for his versatility and customer-pleasing plans, Willson worked on other downtown projects that year as well, including…

Bozeman Hotel Annex

When Montana achieved statehood in 1889, Bozeman was more cowtown than cosmopolitan as it vied with other towns to become the state capital. Architect George Hancock of Fargo, North Dakota, put form to Bozeman’s aspirations by designing several…

Electric Block (Eagles Aerie #3260)

Bozeman’s extensive streetcar system offered reliable transportation from 1892 until 1922. In 1901, the Gallatin Light, Power, and Railway Company built this facility as an office and barn for its trolleys. After 1904 when the second story was…

Ellen Theater

The first building in Bozeman expressly constructed as a theatre, the Ellen opened in December 1919. Calling it “a superb piece of architecture,” the Bozeman Chronicle praised the 800-seat theatre as “the most modern … in the state.” Bozeman…

Federal Building and Post Office, Bozeman

Cattle baron, banker, and entrepreneur Nelson Story purchased this site in 1870 for $154. In June 1911 the United States Secretary of the Treasury took the land from Nelson Story Jr. and his family citing that public use required taking and holding…

Gallatin Block

A livery and feed stable stood here in the 1880s and 1890s, but in 1901, William Nevitt, hardware store owner and “capitalist,” decided that downtown Bozeman could use more commercial space. The Avant Courier reported on the progress of his new…

Gallatin Lodge No. 6, A.F. & M.

Chartered in 1866, Gallatin Masonic Lodge No. 6 built this brick corner block in 1883 for an estimated $20,000, then a princely sum. The grandest of several buildings erected during the early 1880s following the arrival of the railroad, this Masonic…

Hotel Bozeman

Bitter cold was no deterrent in March 1891 as a jubilant, elegantly attired crowd of 500 gathered to celebrate the opening of Bozeman’s first-class hotel. Its completion marked the town’s coming of age and added a decidedly urban formality to what…

National Bank of Gallatin Valley

Impressive molded concrete blocks make this early bank building one of Bozeman’s most unique historic landmarks. Businessmen James E. Martin and Amos C. Hall (who served a term as mayor of Bozeman in 1922) established the Martin and Hall Bank, later…

Owenhouse Building

A projecting pressed-tin cornice and raised patterns in the brickwork (called corbelling) add elegance to the five-bay Owenhouse Building. Emanuel Owenhouse, founder in 1880 of the Owenhouse Hardware Company, hired Bozeman architect Fred Willson to…

Tivoli Beer Hall

Railroad anticipation sparked a frenzied building boom prompting a shortage of brick that postponed completion of this popular watering hole for nearly two years. Begun in 1880, Phil Skeehan’s Tivoli Beer Hall finally opened in 1882. William Beall…