Town halls originated in twelfth-century Italy, where bells were rung to call public assemblies. Missoula architect A. J. Gibson’s city hall design references this history. Allusions to Italy include such Italian Renaissance features as a low-pitched hipped roof, wide eaves, an arch above the front door, and a symmetrical façade. The prominent bell tower, common to American town halls, symbolizes the significance of democratic assembly. The building was designed in 1906 to house city offices, the fire department, and the public library. Originally, two sets of large bay doors, used for horse-drawn fire wagons, flanked the front entrance. Small communities frequently combined city services under one roof, but multiple use was not always ideal. Hamilton library patrons, for example, sometimes complained about the smell of horses. The library moved to a new facility in 1914, and in 1940 Hamilton remodeled the city hall/fire station, adding a truck bay to the building’s south side. While city offices moved to South Second Street in 1990, the fire department continues to operate from its original home.

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119 South Third Street, Hamiliton, Montana ~ private