Historical Sites in Western Montana + Glacier National Park

Historical Sites

Make a Date With the Past

Make a Date With the Past

Some say our history dates back to Lewis and Clark's voyage through Montana, while others say that going back 200 years is just dusting the surface. Montana's rich heritage is made up of American Indians, pioneers, settlers, miners, ranchers, bootleggers and trappers. Over the years, Montana grew as a territory for the strong-willed and iron hearted. While traveling through Big Sky Country, you'll find that our diverse history has created the Montana loved by many today.

Historical sites ranging from missions to fire lookouts can be found throughout the region.


Alta Ranger Station - Sula

Located in the Bitterroot National Forest, the Alta Ranger Station was constructed by early forest rangers Nathaniel "Than" Wilkerson and Henry Tuttle, who built the one-room lodgepole cabin in 1899. It was one of the first ranger stations in the United States and is thought to be one of the oldest surviving buildings associated with federal forest management.

More information:

Bitterroot National Forest


Apgar Fire Lookout - Glacier National Park

Built in 1929, the original lookout burned down two weeks after its completion and was immediately replaced with the current two-story frame structure. The lookout is significant as being one in a chain of fire lookout posts within the park. Today, it's listed on the National Historic Lookout Register and offers beautiful views.

More information:

View the Apgar Lookout Webcam


Belly River Ranger Station Historic District - Glacier National Park

In the northeast section of Glacier National Park, the Belly River Ranger Station Trail can be accessed from Chief Mountain Custom's trailhead. The historic district includes several structures, including the original ranger station. It is the only ranger station in the park that cannot be accessed by road. The ranger station was added to the National Register of Historical Places in 1986.

More information:

Montana Office of Tourism


Belton Chalet - West Glacier

West Glacier's Belton Chalet was the first Great Northern Railway hotel at Glacier National Park and would welcome guests arriving by train to the park before they made their way into the park's backcountry chalets and tent camps. During the Great Depression, the Belton Chalet housed the crews working on the Going-to-the-Sun Road and has since been used for many different businesses. Today it is one of Montana's grandest historic hotels.

More information:

Belton Chalet


Bull River Guard Station - Noxon

Rent this rustic, 700-square-foot two-story Forest Service cabin near the East Fork of the Bull River. Built in 1907 and restored in 1989, it's equipped with an electric stove and heater, three double beds and two single beds. The views are lovely and the fishing is plentiful.

More information:

U.S. Forest Service


Camp Disappointment - Cut Bank

This northernmost camp and National Historic Landmark established by the Lewis and Clark expedition is located on the Blackfeet Reservation between Cut Bank and Browning, Montana, and the campground is open to the public. Meriwether Lewis camped here while trying to decipher how far north the Marias River extended, but his plan was thwarted by foul weather and lack of provisions. This affected the boundaries of the Louisiana Purchase and Canadian fur trading.

More information:

Discovering Lewis & Clark


Conrad Mansion - Kalispell

Once home to Charles E. Conrad, one of the founders of Kalispell, this Victorian-style mansion is located on the edge of the original town of Kalispell. Built in 1895, the mansion was home to Conrad and members of his family until 1974 when it was donated to the city of Kalispell. Today, the mansion is a museum and has many of the original family furnishings throughout its 26 rooms.

More information:

Conrad Mansion


Daly Mansion - Hamilton

Located near Hamilton, the Daly Mansion was the summer home of Montana Copper King Marcus Daly and his family. The 24,000-square-foot mansion has 25 bedrooms, 15 bathrooms and seven fireplaces, as well as the Marcus Daly Memorial Arboretum and Botanic Garden. The home started as a farmhouse and was remodeled to a Queen Anne style Victorian home and Georgian-Revival style home. The Daly Mansion is open for tours from May - October.

More information:

Daly Mansion


DeBorgia Schoolhouse - DeBorgia

This two-room, two-story schoolhouse was built in 1908 and was one of the only buildings in the area to survive the fires of 1910. Located at the crossroads of American Indian trails, the Mullan Trail and the Milwaukee and Pacific Northern railroads, it served students in grades one - eight until 1956. Today, it's used as a community center for the western end of Mineral County.


Florence Hotel - Missoula

Located in downtown Missoula on Higgins Avenue, the Florence Hotel was built in 1941 in order to accommodate the increasing number of automobile travelers passing through the Missoula area. Designed with distinctive 1940s Art Deco architecture, today the building houses a ballroom, a wine bar, a decadent coffee/chocolate shop, several tenants and a restored lobby.

More information:

Missoula
Missoula Downtown Association


Fort Fizzle - Lolo

The Fort Fizzle Historic Site Picnic Area parallels the historic Lolo Trail that was used by Nez Perce, Salish and Kootenai Indians, as well as Lewis and Clark. Fort Fizzle itself was a wooden barricade that was constructed on the Lolo Trail to stop Chief Joseph during the Nez Perce War. Chief Joseph and the Nez Perce simply climbed a steep ravine and bypassed the soldiers, earning the previously unnamed barricade the name of Fort Fizzle.

More information:

Lolo National Forest


Fort Missoula - Missoula

Originally established in 1877 as a U.S. Army permanent military post on the southwest end of Missoula, Fort Missoula was built as an open fort that required troops to actively patrol their area. The fort has played several different roles over the years and is now home to The Historical Museum at Fort Missoula. The museum is located in the heart of Fort Missoula and houses a collection of 24,000 objects and 13 historic structures.

More information:

The Historical Museum at Fort Missoula


Fort Owen State Park - Stevensville

Built of adobe and logs, Fort Owen is thought to be the site of the first permanent white settlement in Montana. Father Pierre DeSmet came to the Bitterroot Valley in 1841 and established St. Mary's Mission among the Flathead Indians, while Major John Owen established the fort as a regional trade center in 1850.

More information:

Montana State Parks


Glacier Park Lodge - Glacier National Park

Constructed over a century ago by The Great Northern Railway, the historic Glacier Park Lodge is located in the southeast corner of Glacier National Park on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation. Stepping inside the lodge once referred to as "Big Tree Lodge" is like stepping back in time. Guests today enjoy the quintessential Glacier National Park lodge vacation.

More information:

Glacier Park Inc.


Going-to-the-Sun Road - Glacier National Park

The Going-to-the-Sun Road spans 50 miles through the heart of Glacier National Park. Completed in 1932, the road runs from West Glacier to St. Mary and crosses the Continental Divide at 6,646-feet at Logan Pass, taking travelers through cedar forests, low valleys and alpine tundra and offering stunning views. In 1983, the Going-to-the-Sun Road was included in the National Register of Historic Places and in 1985 it was designated as a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark.

More information:

National Park Service


Granite Park Chalet - Glacier National Park

Built in 1914 and 1915 by the Great Northern Railway, Granite Park Chalet was one of eight backcountry chalets and is one of only two that still exist today. The chalet is accessible by a 7-mile hike along Glacier National Park's Highline Trail and offers rustic accommodations for hikers.

More information:

Granite Park Chalet


Heritage Museum - Libby

Lincoln County, Montana's rich mining and logging history is preserved in Libby's Heritage Museum. The unique log structure has 12 sides and houses artifacts from Libby's settlement days. Early gold and silver mining equipment and logging equipment are displayed on the museum grounds, which also include a vintage locomotive that was used for logging operations. The museum is open Memorial Day through the end of August.

More information:

The Heritage Museum Libby, MT


Kerr Dam - Polson

A short 5-mile drive from Polson, the Seli’š Ksanka Qlispe’ dam (Kerr Dam) on the Flathead River boasts a 1,000-foot boardwalk that lets you stand right above the falls where you'll find breathtaking canyon views. Check out the spillway in the spring and early summer, and have a picnic lunch in the area. Whitewater rafting and fishing are also popular activities at the dam.

More information:

Kerr Dam


Lake McDonald Lodge - Glacier National Park

Built in 1914 and located on the eastern shore of Lake McDonald, the lodge has welcomed guests to Glacier National Park for nearly 100 years. Today, the lodge serves as one of the finest examples of a Swiss-style chalet in the United States. The main lodge was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1987.

More information:

Glacier National Park Lodges


Many Glacier Hotel - Glacier National Park

This secluded, five-story chalet-style hotel—the park's largest hotel—was built on the shores of Swiftcurrent Lake by the Great Northern Railway in 1914 - 15. Guests enjoy comfortable, rustic rooms and modest amenities, red bus tours, boat cruises, horseback rides and evening ranger programs.

More information:

Glacier National Park Lodges


McCart Fire Lookout - Sula

Constructed in 1939, the fire lookout—located in the Bitterroot National Forest south of Darby—was refurbished in the 1990s and is now available to rent. The lookout is listed on the National Historic Lookout Register and National Register of Historic Places.

More information:

Bitterroot National Forest


Missoula County Courthouse - Missoula

A neoclassical sandstone structure, the Missoula County Courthouse was designed by Missoula's premier architect, A.J. Gibson and was completed in 1910. Taking up an entire city block, the courthouse houses eight large murals depicting early Montana history. The murals were painted from 1912 - 1914 by western artist Edgar Samuel Paxson.

More information:

Missoula Downtown Association


Ninemile Historic Remount Depot - Huson

This historic depot provides the public with a look at a longtime working ranger station. The visitor center houses information about pack animals and firefighters that worked during the 1920s to 1940s. Tours are available of the remount during the summer months, while the Forest Service District Office is open year-round. In 1980, the ranger station and depot were listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

More information:

Montana Office of Tourism
Lolo National Forest


Northern Pacific Railroad Depot - Missoula

The depot is located at the north end of Higgins Avenue in Missoula and was opened in 1901, 18 years after the arrival of the railroad. A prime example of Renaissance Revival architecture, the depot serves as one of the major anchors in downtown. The building was designed by Reed & Stem, the same architectural firm that designed New York City's Grand Central Station.

More information:

Missoula Downtown Association


Old-Rexford Depot - Eureka

The Tobacco Valley's historical village of Eureka features a collection of vintage structures and artifacts dating back to the late 1800s through early 1900s. Buildings are open to the public from May through September, and village volunteers offer interpretative tours and public programs. The village also provides Tobacco Valley visitor information and the grounds can be rented for events. The Old Rexford Depot features a logging museum and there's a park across the street for picnicking.

More information:

Tobacco Valley History
Eureka


Roxy Theater - Missoula

One of Missoula's treasured landmarks, the historic Roxy Theater was once a dollar theater before being gutted by fire in 1994. Today, the building is owned by the International Wildlife Media Center and the Roxy's three theaters are used for special events, performances, lectures and films.

More information:

Roxy Theater
Missoula


Savenac Historic Tree Nursery Visitor Center - Haugan

Located in Haugan, the historic Savenac Nursery was once one of the largest U.S. Forest Service tree nurseries in the United States, producing 12 million seedlings annually to reforest national forests throughout the country. Visitors can wander along interpretive trails, explore the arboretum and points of interest at the site that include historical photos, displays with period artifacts and exhibits that tell the story of the Civilian Conservation Corp at the nursery in the 1930s. Also visit the national memorial to firefighters who died in the historic 1910 forest fire and walk under the 78 spruce trees planted as a living memorial to these firefighters. Open daily Memorial Day through Labor Day, but please note the visitor center will be closed for maintenance until August 2022.

More information:

fs.usda.gov/recarea/lolo/recreation/recarea/?recid=10338&actid=120
406.678.4395


St. Francis Xavier Church - Missoula

Constructed between 1891 and 1892, St. Francis Xavier is a landmark of the Missoula skyline. Built in a Romanesque style, the building has large stained-glass windows and murals painted by Brother Joseph Carignano—the same man who painted the murals in the St. Ignatius Mission.

More information:

Missoula Downtown Association


St. Ignatius Mission - St. Ignatius

Established in 1854 by Jesuit Fathers and Brothers, the St. Ignatius Mission—a National Historic Site—features 58 hand-painted murals on its walls and ceiling. The murals were painted by Brother Joseph Carignano, a handyman at the mission. The mission grounds are also home to the original log cabin residence, chapel, museum and Sisters of Providence first residence. The mission is open to the public and conducts regular mass.

Montana Office of Tourism


Stevensville Hotel - Stevensville

Stay at this historic hotel designed by famed Missoula architect A. J. Gibson. The present-day hotel was built by Dr. William Thornton and was the first hospital in the Bitterroot Valley. Constructed in Classic Revival style, it has arched windows and Tuscan columns.

More information:

Stevensville Hotel
Stevensville


Swan River Bridge - Bigfork

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP), the one-lane Swan River Bridge was built in the early 1900s. It serves downtown Bigfork and provides a river crossing between the Bigfork Dam and Flathead Lake. Efforts are being made to continue to restore the bridge while maintaining its authentic nature, which is representative of many such structures built in Montana at that time.

More information:

Montana Department of Transportation


The 1908 Pruett House - Eureka

Located in northwest Montana's Tobacco Valley, the Pruett House was built between 1908 and 1913. While its had several owners during the past century, it has retained many of its details, including original glass window panes, pocket doors, wall sconces and a skirted tub.


Travelers' Rest Connection - Lolo

A historic and contemporary crossroads, Travelers' Rest was used by Lewis and Clark during 1805 and 1806 and is the only campsite on the Lewis and Clark Trail that has physical evidence of their expedition. Prior to its use by Lewis and Clark, Travelers' Rest was used as a campsite and trail junction by the Salish, Pend d'Oreille and Nez Perce Indians. Storytelling by these tribes remains a significant part of the program at the park.

More information:

Travelers' Rest State Park
Travelers' Rest Connection


Troy Ferry - Troy

Completed in 1895, the Troy Ferry was constructed to take travelers across the Kootenai River at Troy. The ferry was replaced by a bridge in 1913, serving the ever-growing need of the town, and putting the ferry out of commission after 18 years of service. The ferry played a vital role in the development of Troy and the Yaak River Valley, where today visitors and locals alike can hike nature trails, camp, boat on the Kootenai River, bird watch, fish and snowmobile.

More information:

City of Troy


University of Montana - Missoula

Montana's oldest university, the University of Montana opened in September of 1893 directly outside Hellgate Canyon. Today, the university is home to competitive sports teams, Montana's only law school and a strong journalism program. The University Area Historic District was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2001 and is home to beautiful styles of architecture, including Queen Anne, Craftsmen and Revival.

More information:

University of Montana


Wilma Building - Missoula

Located in downtown Missoula, the Wilma was built in 1921 by William Simons, a producer of Wild West shows. This eight-story building was commonly called the "Showplace of Montana" and was a living memorial to Simon's wife Edna Wilma—a famous light-opera star. The Wilma has three theaters, private meeting rooms and residential spaces and regularly houses movies, concerts and stage performances.

More information:

Missoula
The Wilma

News from Glacier National Park Currently, 29 miles of the Going-to-the-Sun Road are open for travel.