Designed by world-famous architect Cass Gilbert in 1904, the Montana Club stands as one of Helena’s most prominent buildings. Beginning his career as an architect for the Northern Pacific Railway, Gilbert went on to design such masterpieces as the Minnesota Capitol, the Woolworth Building (once the tallest building in the world), and the U.S. Supreme Court building. In Montana, his vision is responsible for the Metals Bank Building in Butte, Helena’s original Northern Pacific depot, and the Placer Hotel.
Montana architects Paulsen and LaValle oversaw the original Montana Club’s construction in 1893. Ten years later, however, a massive fire burned it to the ground. A young boy, who worked as the elevator operator, set the blaze to “watch the horses from the fire station run.” The boy was the youngest son of the much beloved bartender at the club, Julian Anderson, who served the members for 60 years, retiring in 1953. When asked the morning after the fire what they would do, the president of the club vowed to rebuild.
|Ruins of Paulsen and LaValle's Montana Club|
April 28, 1903.
Courtesy Montana Historical Society (PAc88-39 F1)
|Paulsen and LaValle's Montana Club, northwest corner |
of Sixth and Fuller Ave, Helena, 1893-1903
Courtesy Montana Historical Society (953-326)
|Montana Club Rathskellar|
probably June 1905
Courtesy Montana Historical Society (PAc 88-39 F1)
In the case of the Minnesota Capitol, a German theme was appropriate in 1905, because Minnesota's 361,000 Germans were the largest group of foreign-born immigrants. When it opened that year, the Capitol rathskeller served as a full-service restaurant, and true to the rathskeller tradition, the walls bore 29 painted mottoes in German. Though a bit less elaborate, the rathskellar of the Montana Club certainly has that Bavarian, old world feel and I encourage you to visit.
|Present Day Montana Club|
Photo by Kate Hampton