Historic Downtown

Missoula, Montana's Past and Present

A frontier spirit still lingers in the facades of Downtown Missoula. As we approach our city's 150-year anniversary, it becomes ever more fascinating to look back on our history and marvel at how much things have changed - and, in some cases, how much things have stayed the same. Thanks to robust preservation efforts, much of historic Missoula's character remains intact, luring visitors into American history.

It may no longer have the eye-catching name of Hellgate Village, but since its foundation as a trading post in 1860, Missoula has played a crucial role in the history of Montana. It served as the crux of efforts by the U.S. Army, the railroad, the Forest Service and the University of Montana to shape the state and city in the late 19th century, saw an unprecedented boom in the logging industry and was the site of the election of the first woman in Congress, Jeanette Rankin, in 1916. 

Take a walk downtown and stop by some of the most prominent historical landmarks in Missoula. The Montana Museum of Art & Culture, begun in 1894, houses over 10,000 original works, while you can catch a show at the Wilma Theatre, founded in 1921, or see the artistic happenings at the Atlantic Hotel, dating back to 1902 and now housing studios and a secondhand thrift store. For a savory experience, visit the Oxford, a saloon and cafe established in 1883 that now boasts 24-hour service. Some Missoula history is yet to be written; Missoula, already home of the smokejumpers' headquarters, is scheduled to be the site of the National Museum of Forest Service History.

For more information on historic downtown Missoula, as well as a timeline of pivotal events in the city's past, visit Destination Missoula