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.

City Market

Walter Fox sold meat from a one-story, wooden building on this site in 1893. An 1896 expansion added an icehouse, and the building, later occupied by a confectionery and fruit stand, still stood in 1909. Not long afterward, M. L. Kelley purchased the…

Notions/Hamilton Book Store/Roberts

Wynne Roberts sold books and notions from a one-story brick building constructed on this lot circa 1900. Wynne’s wife Sophie is listed on the deed as the building’s sole owner. She is one of many women who owned property in Montana at the turn of…

Sears

With material and manpower redirected to winning the fight against fascism, commercial and domestic construction practically ceased during World War II. After the war, pent up demand led to a mini construction boom. With very few lots left on the 100…

407 West Main

The owner of the Western News built this false-front building to house its newspaper office and print shop in 1895. Its editor, Miles Romney, Sr., was a strong Democrat and advocate for progressive reform; the Western News became known for its…

Nicholas Blindauer Building

Charles Fonger built a two-story building on this corner in 1893. The saloon on the first floor was one of twenty-one taverns serving the thirsty men in this town of nine hundred residents. A lodge hall occupied the second floor. In 1902, Matthew…

Burns Block

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…

City Hall

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…

First National Bank

“No year has favored the business section like 1910. And best of all, the buildings are of a better class than last year,” enthused the Ravalli Republic. Part of this boom, the First National Bank building replaced two wooden structures that…

Grill Building

Marcus Daly began construction of Hamilton's water system in 1896, making indoor plumbing possible for local residents. Hot and cold running water and bathrooms in homes—found in larger cities by the 1860s—did not become commonplace until…

International Order of Odd Fellows Hall

A plaque centered under the cornice of this imposing two-story building reads “No. 48 I.O.O.F. Hall 1918.” I.O.O.F. stands for International Order of Odd Fellows, an organization that advocates love, friendship, and truth while offering…

O'Hara's Office

Twenty-three-year-old attorney Robert O’Hara had passed the bar less than a year before he arrived in the Bitterroot in 1890. Working for copper king Marcus Daly, he served as town site agent for the Bitter Root Development Company. He is…

Roberts Building

A native of Manchester, England, Wynne Roberts came to Hamilton in 1892. He opened a book and stationery store with only $300 in capital and conducted more than $9,000 worth of business his first year selling fruit, crockery, and wallpaper in…

Telephone Exchange

State officials turned out on January 21, 1937, for the grand opening of Hamilton’s new telephone system. The event marked the modernization of telecommunications in the Bitterroot Valley. Ivan C. Gustafson owned this property and built the…

United States Post Office

When construction began on Hamilton’s post office in August 1940, the worst of the Depression was over. Nevertheless, the building is a legacy of the New Deal, when the number of federal construction projects soared to put people to work. Montana…

Carnegie Library, Hamilton

Hamilton’s Ministerial Association opened the first free library in Ravalli County in April 1903 in a room donated by the Ravalli County Bank. Three months later, Hamilton voters levied a one mill tax to support the library, and the enterprise…