Hamilton Commercial Historic District

Hamilton was born of the Anaconda Company’s voracious appetite for lumber, nurtured on the Bitterroot apple boom, and sustained by medical research. Copper King Marcus Daly—whose Big Mill cut millions of board feet annually to feed his mines and smelter—created this timber town after coming to the area to raise race horses. Working as Daly’s front man, engineer James Hamilton quietly bought 160 acres from area farmers. He platted the townsite in 1890, with Main Street running between the Big Mill on the west and the railroad on the east. By 1893, over forty businesses had opened downtown, catering to the mill workers whose heavy boots resounded on the wooden boardwalks that lined Main Street. Fearful of fire, downtown merchants steadily replaced many of Hamilton’s earliest false-front wooden buildings with buildings constructed from locally manufactured brick or blue-gray stone quarried in nearby Corvallis. New money arrived in Hamilton after 1907 with the Bitterroot apple boom. Hamilton’s population burgeoned to three thousand, and its downtown gained several stylish architect-designed buildings, identifiable by their high-fire brick, metal mullion storefronts, and leaded glass transoms. In the 1920s and 1930s the Rocky Mountain Laboratory, founded to combat spotted fever, sustained Hamilton’s economy, and up-to-date business owners introduced a sleeker architectural style to downtown. Designed by Missoula architect H. E. Kirkemo, the Bower Building at South Second and West Main typifies the smooth lines fashionable in the 1930s, while the wood-frame false-front building at 411 West Main reflects the community’s earliest history.

Images

Aerial view of Hamilton, Montana

Aerial view of Hamilton, Montana

Aerial view of Hamilton, Montana, May 1966, showing Bitterroot River looking north towards Missoula. | Source: Montana Historical Society Research Center Photograph Archives, Helena, Montana | Creator: Photographer Unidentified View File Details Page

Street Scene, Hamilton, Montana.

Street Scene, Hamilton, Montana.

Undated photograph on West Main Street in Hamilton. Catalog # PAc 2013-50 #0368 | Source: Montana Historical Society Research Center Photograph Archives, Helena, MT | Creator: E. M. Ward, photographer View File Details Page

Raising of the Service Flag

Raising of the Service Flag

"The Service Flag of Hamilton, Montana. Raised March 3, 1918, Has 112 Stars." Catalog # PAc 2013-50 #0369 | Source: Montana Historical Society Research Center Photograph Archives, Helena, MT | Creator: Photo By Johnsons' View File Details Page

Biplane Over Hamilton

Biplane Over Hamilton

Hamilton Transportation Company plane flying over the commercial district of Hamilton, Montana. Catalog # PAc 2013-50 #0370 | Source: Montana Historical Society Research Center Photograph Archives, Helena, MT | Creator: Published by A. M. Miles View File Details Page

Photo postcard of Hamilton, Montana

Photo postcard of Hamilton, Montana

HAMILTON, MONTANA. Hamilton, county seat of Ravalli County, in the heart of the fertile and productive Bitter Root Valley. Spectacular mountain scenery, excellent hunting and fishing, the valley is famous as a recreational area. Color photo by Ernst Peterson Published by Northwest Curio and Postcard Co., 1034 La Poine, Boise, Idaho W-1663, verso. Catalog information PAc 2013-50 Box 9-01 Hamilton Montana street | Source: Montana Historical Society Research Center Photograph Archives, Helena, MT | Creator: Color photo by Ernst Peterson View File Details Page

Access Information:

private

Street Address:

Hamiliton, Montana [map]

Cite this Page:

The Montana National Register Sign Program, “Hamilton Commercial Historic District,” Explore Big – Montana's Historic Places, accessed June 24, 2017, http://explorebig.org/items/show/1728.

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