North Side 100 block W. Main 1980
The Turf Bar is the olive green building, one from the far end. All but the far building on the block were raised to make way for a parking garage in the late ’80s.
Before it was “cleaned up” in the 1920s, West Front was a wild and wooly Western street with an infamous reputation. In the 100 block bars, saloons, eateries and theaters were ubiquitous, but the serious entertainment was to be found in the 200 and 300 blocks where numerous “Female Boarding Houses” stood. The most famous of these were run by the notorious Mary Gleim. The area was avoided if possible by the “good” people of the city, who either lived on East Front, or other areas east of Higgins. (Around 1890, the Knowles addition was plotted on the south side of the river and many fled downtown entirely to reside in the new upscale part of town.)
Below are photos of the north side of West Front, probably taken around 1890. The two story building with balcony at the left sat at the triangular corner where West Front intersects with Main (now the little park across from KECI). Most all the houses in this photo are identified on the Sanborn Fire Maps as “Female Boarding Houses.”
The Northern Pacific passenger depot was originally located between Woody and Harris (Orange), a couple blocks west of where it is today. In 1895 the City Council voted to vacate a railroad crossing at Higgins Avenue so that the railroad could build a grand new depot at the head of the street that was by now Missoula’s main drag. North-siders were vehemently opposed to the crossing closure because that meant they had to travel several blocks out of their way to get downtown. Although the workers were harassed by opponents, construction was nearly complete when the glorious new depot mysteriously burned down in July 1896 while the members of the fire department were playing ball across the river. Undaunted, the railroad rebuilt using a more modern design. That building, completed in 1899, stands today.
Mysteriously repainted every time the phone company would paint over it, the Missoula Peace Sign was located on the US West microwave reflector screen high on Waterworks Hill directly north of downtown from 1983 until sometime around the turn of the millenium when the screen was finally removed. Now there is a peace sign made of rocks some several hundred yards to the east of the original location.
Located at 1221 Helen Avenue, a block from the University of Montana, Freddy’s Feed and Read opened in 1972. The little Marxist bookstore was initiated by a group of four local radicals, university figures, one of whom put up $25,000 cash and all of whom contributed sweat equity. They called themselves collectively Our Gang, Inc. Jan Konigsberg, one of the original four founders, informs us that the group bought Mrs. Olsen’s “University Grocery” store, renamed it Freddy’s Feed and Read and were the first area market to carry organic items. About a year and a half later, they were able to open the “Read” part of the store, a bookstore, in the other half of the building. In later years a mostly vegetarian restaurant was added. Margaret Ambrose-Barton, a renowned local pastry chef got her first job there in 1991 and stayed until the store closed. Fred Rice, a D.J. for KUFM, who now lives in Helena, was the manager of the place for many years. (Contrary to rumor, the store was neither named for Fred Rice nor for Fat Freddy of the Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers although, according to Jan, Linda Helding may have had the latter in the back of her mind when she blurted out Freddy’s Feed and Read during an hours long meeting to decide the name.) The last owner was Mark Watkins. Freddy’s had been struggling for a long time, but the final straw was the opening of a Barnes & Noble chain store in Missoula. All in all, Freddy’s lasted twenty-six years, finally closing in 1998.
After the demise of Freddy’s, a permit to put in a pizza parlor was denied. It turns out the property was zoned residential, and Freddy’s had been in violation of the zoning ordinance for its entire existence. Evidently a waiver was later granted, as the next tenant at 1221 Helen Avenue was Quarter Moon Books, which was succeeded by the Bear’s Brew Coffee House, and then shared by the Java U coffee house and the Secret Seconds thrift store. Today it is the home of the Buttercup Market and Cafe.
Marcus Wolf, a self-described “pack rat,” operated a second hand store and “non-profit museum” often referred to by locals as “Wolftown.” His obsessive collecting and organizing instincts resulted in a labyrinthine compound (located on W. Broadway a few blocks past its intersection with Russell Street) brimming with thousands of items, including a trailer jammed with thousands of dolls of every sort. With a creative and humorous spirit, Wolf produced tableaus using the prodigious quantity of materials at his disposal, for example, a “jail” with a kneeling female store-dummy whose head was placed in a toilet bowl. He welcomed customers in search of unique items and just curious passers-by. The tours he offered were an inspiration to many local artists and photographers.