Red Lodge Commercial Historic District

Tour curated by: The Explore Big – Montana's Historic Places Team

Rapid growth of the young town of Red Lodge coincided with the arrival of the Northern Pacific Railroad’s branch line in 1889. The area became Montana’s leading coal mining region. Town lots were platted by the secretary of the Rocky Fork Town and Electric Company, a subsidiary of the mining company, in turn owned by the railroad. By the mid-1890s, businesses had moved from the old town site, and Red Lodge’s commercial center developed rapidly. Although half of Red Lodge’s population was foreign-born, buildings erected between 1895 and 1936 generally reflect American trends rather than traditions of the various ethnic groups. Fraternal organizations, doctors’ offices, ethnic clubs, bawdy houses, and hotels occupied the upper floors of downtown buildings. As miners poured into Red Lodge, some slept in shifts at the hotels until other housing became available. The town reeled from the closing of the last coal mine in 1932, but within four years the Beartooth Scenic Highway began to reveal Red Lodge to tourists, and a new era of development began.

Contributing properties not pictured--Frank Church Building

Locations for Tour

Local rancher Frank Church purchased this property as an investment in 1905. Its history is intertwined with the community’s early medical needs. W. A. Talmage constructed the building in 1906 as the Carbon County Hospital and Sanitarium under Dr.…

Local physician Dr. Samuel Souders owned this commercial lot in 1909, when Dan Davis, an advocate for the construction of a fancy opera house, proposed it for the construction of his vision. The newspapers reported weekly for several months on…

A combination moving picture theater and boardinghouse were the original tenants of this two-story masonry building, completed in 1908. Several directors managed the rather short-lived Alcazar, including Steve Roman, whose family long monopolized Red…

Americans organized much of their social life around fraternal groups at the turn of the twentieth century. The Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks provided an important social and charitable outlet for Red Lodge's professionals, who…

This two-story building was under construction in 1907, and for a short time housed part-owner Charles Antilla’s dry goods store. In 1912, new owners Ed Ricketts and C. V. Lucas located their Okay Meat Market, later the Red Lodge Meat Market, on…

Butte architect P. J. Donahue drew the plans for the 1899 landmark after fire destroyed its predecessor. Situated at the busy northern end of the commercial district, the building today provides an excellent example of restrained, classically…

When prominent local physician and surgeon Dr. Samuel Souders built this magnificent hospital in 1909, it was considered “state-of-the-art.” Amenities included a central heating system, wide doorways and hallways, an elevator, and private…

This distinctive two-story brick building designed by W. H. Perham of Butte enlivens the district’s architectural landscape. Red Lodge jeweler Allen H. Davis opened his well-equipped new shop here in the original one-story building in 1902.…

This fine example of masonry architecture, with its unusually preserved storefront and recessed entry, appears almost as it did in 1900 when Walter Hall opened his first-floor grocery. Sandstone banding, corbelled arches, and original stained glass…

Photographer Mark E. Hawkes and his son Charley built a photography studio at this location where much of Red Lodge’s history was documented in pictures. Charley later struck out for Great Falls, and son Harry joined Mark. Hawkes & Son sold the…

In the 1920s Italian shoemaker Ludovico Iarussi (later changed to Jarussi) owned this property containing his shop and several frame commercial buildings. In 1929, Iarussi razed the older shops and constructed the present building. Financially…

Originally intended as a meeting hall with storefront space, tenants Byton Down and Robert Pryde redesigned the building’s ground floor before its completion for use as a theater. When the Iris opened in 1925, residents viewed it as welcome…

Red Lodge Miner’s Local No. 1771 had grown to more than a thousand members when this labor temple was built in 1909. The United Mine Workers of America organized nationally in 1896 and by 1898, Local No. 1771 had 200 members. The building is a…

Early Red Lodge businessmen James Blackburn and Dominic Marino jointly built this fine two-story commercial building circa 1905 to house a mercantile business. A series of saloons later occupied the ground floor. An upstairs boarding house, first…

These two turn-of-the-twentieth-century wood-frame commercial buildings with a tiny shop sandwiched in between today share one façade. In 1900, Biagio Sconfienza opened a bakery in the one-story building. In 1903, as the business prospered, Biagio…

German-born Victor and Otto Neithammer first established their meat market on North Broadway in 1912, raising their own livestock to supply this and other local family-run stores. Because the Neithammers’s employees represented many ethnic groups,…

Designed by Red Lodge carpenter and amateur architect Frank A. Sell and built by W. T. Pernham in 1902, this impressive brick commercial building was home to the Red Lodge Picket and, after 1918, the Picket-Journal, the primary news sources for the…

High transom windows that provide interior light for a mezzanine commercial display area are an interesting design feature of this well-constructed commercial building. The simple chain-patterned ornamentation of buff brick across the tall parapet…

The Rocky Fork Coal Company constructed this hotel, originally the Spofford, which welcomed its first guests on July 4, 1893. This architectural landmark, built before the commercial district was platted, originally had its main entrance on 11th…

"A hook and ladder outfit stored at a central point" and a loosely organized volunteer company served as Red Lodge's defense against fire in 1897. A disastrous fire in 1900, which killed one man and destroyed four brick business…

Coal was discovered in the upper Rock Creek Valley in 1866. The Rocky Fork Development Company purchased the mines in 1887 and actively lobbied the Northern Pacific Railway for a branch line to carry the coal to markets throughout Montana. In 1889,…

Original rusticated and ashlar concrete blocks and the 1935 ROMAN marquee distinguish the façade of this early movie theater. Austrian immigrant Steve Roman built the theater in 1917. One of fourteen sons, nineteen-year-old Roman came to Red Lodge…

A keen sense of the town’s future prompted businessman William Talmage to move his hardware business away from the busy commercial center a few blocks south to this building in 1894. When other businesses began to move to the newly platted main…