Decorative brickwork ornaments this two-story Western Commercial style building constructed for jeweler Frank L. Burns. The Canadian-born Burns came to Hamilton in 1894, four years after the town’s founding. He originally ran his business from a one-story wooden building on this site. But in 1906, a giant steam shovel began excavating the “Big Ditch.” Bitterrooters hoped this irrigation canal would transform their valley into an oasis, and Burns saw an opportunity for expansion. His new fifty-by-seventy-foot building included two storefronts. Occupying one was his jewelry store, which in 1909 stocked “a full line of watches, clocks, diamonds and small jewelry, hand painted china, cut glass, [and] souvenirs” as well as musical instruments and fancy stationery. The other storefront he leased to various businesses, including a Chinese restaurant and a general store. The second floor he left undivided as a hall for “entertainments and dances.” As Hamilton’s first large public hall, it contributed markedly to the community’s social life. In later years, the second floor was reconfigured into apartments.

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128-132 West Main Street, Hamiliton, Montana ~ public