A Guide to Historic Missoula
History of Missoula Told
A stroll through historic Missoula can leave one inspired by the past and filled with a desire to learn more about the city that first sprung up in 1860 as a trading post called Hellgate.
The Montana Historical Society Press's book A Guide to Historic Missoula combines the expertise of the Society’s State Historic Preservation Office with the knowledge of one of the state’s finest architectural historians to tell the story of this city on the Clark Fork.
Allan James Mathews, author of the new book, served for many years as Missoula’s Historic Preservation Officer and currently operates Blue Rock Histories and Missoula Historic Walking Tours. In 2001 he was named Missoula “Preservationist of the Decade.”
The book features Mathews’s history of the city from the glaciers that formed the valley, to early Native American life there and the Euro-American settlers who left their own mark on the land. It concludes with a discussion of present day efforts to preserve the character of this grand old city.
Missoula has one of the state’s most extensive listing of properties and places on the National Register of Historic Places, and the Society’s records are used to detail its architecture and show the development of the community.
According to Mathews the commercial center of Missoula radiated from the intersection of Higgins Avenue and Front Street, which followed the Mullan Road. The arrival of the Northern Pacific Railroad in 1883 transformed the city and contributed to the development of Missoula’s Northside.
It was in about that year that Missoula was first referred to as “the very garden of all Montana,” which comes down today as “The Garden City.”
“This probably was in reference to Cyrus and William McWhirk’s extensive vegetable and flower gardens surrounding their log cabin located in the 600 block of East Front Street,” Mathews writes.
The 181-page book features 72 historic photographs, 14 maps of historic districts ranging from downtown to Fort Missoula, various illustrations of architectural styles, a timeline of Missoula history, an index of sites, and a list of suggested reading. It sells for $12.95 and is available at bookstores and other locations across the state.
It can also be ordered directly from the Society, plus shipping, by calling toll-free 1-800-243-9900.
This is the sixth in the Society Press’s Montana Mainstreets series, which has already featured Virginia City, Glendive, Lewistown, Hamilton, and Kalispell.Order