The Knowles Mansion (1888 – circa 1960)


Knowles residence circa 1938










Perhaps the most forgotten of Missoula’s old mansions is the home of Judge Hiram Knowles, who in 1889 platted the first two additions to Missoula south of the river.

The Knowles estate was constructed at 900 S. 1st Street, on the west side of the Bitterroot Line. The estate appears to have been started as early as 1888 and was nearly complete by 1892.  A first hand account of the estate as told by Bea Forkenbrock Blair, appeared in a 1951 Missoulian article. Bea recalled that the estate was in a location that was “on the edge of the country,” perhaps referring to the slower pace of development west of the estate, or referring to the fact that the estate was located just outside of Missoula’s city limits for many years. She described the estate as having orchards that sloped down to the irrigation ditch, a large pasture, an east and south facing garden, and a stable/coachman’s quarters combination. The irrigation ditch that Bea refers to is likely the same ditch that today marks the northern boundary of the McCormick District, running along the north side of the River Road properties. Mrs. Blair grew up with the grandsons of Hiram and recalled playing in the Red Room, the Green Room, the ballroom and the wine seller of the house, often entering by way of the dumbwaiter.

The home was razed sometime after 1958 for unknown reasons, and the grounds are now the parking lot for a baseball diamond.









The Greenough Mansion (1894-1992)

Greenough Mansion at the foot of the Rattlesnake (January 30, 1966)










Thomas Greenough was born in Iowa, left home to work in railroad construction and gold mining and finally arrived in Missoula in 1882, where he began a wood-cutting business. He contracted with the Northern Pacific Railroad to supply ties for the railroad’s line from the Dakotas to what is now the Idaho-Washington state line. This was so profitable that he later invested in mining and became a very wealthy man. Greenough decided to build a home befitting his success and noted architect, A. J. Gibson designed “the Mansion,” along the banks of Rattlesnake Creek. In 1902 Mr. and Mrs. Greenough gave the adjacent area of land to the city of Missoula for Christmas. Greenough Park was then, and is today, one of the city’s most popular picnic and recreation areas. Greenough died in Spokane in 1911.

Greenough’s beautiful home was directly in the path of I-90 which came through Missoula in 1966.   The house was moved, first to a place of storage at the north end of the Van Buren street bridge, where it was nearly destroyed by fire.  Finally, it was cut into pieces so it could be moved across the Madison Street bridge to its new home in the South Hills.   During the 1970s and 80s, it was home to one of the Overland Express Restaurants, “The Mansion.”  It burned to the ground in June of 1992 ostensibly due to a lightning-caused electrical fire.

During the flood of 1908

During the flood of 1908

Just before the move (1966)

Stored and eventually cut up at the north end of the Van Buren bridge in preparation for move


At its new home high on the South Hills


The “Old” Shack

Remember when the Shack was located in a little shotgun space on Front Street, bar in the front, booths and lunch counter in the back?   Anna, the best waitress ever, slinging Tuesday night’s Spaghetti Special, all you can eat for a dollar, including Texas Toast, or Wednesday’s Chicken Special, half a chicken with all the fixins for a buck and a half.   Fridays after classes drinking black and tans, or breakfast on Sunday, with half the place having red beers.  A real life good-eatins sorta joint that’s much missed.

Jay Rummel (1939-1998)

Screen Shot 2014-03-29 at 5.09.28 PMJay Rummel was a legendary painter and printmaker who lived in Missoula almost all of his life. Born near Helena in 1939, Jay was influenced by most of the movements that have touched artists in Montana, including depression-era prints, Native American storytelling, pioneer storytelling, the paintings of C.M. Russell, the psychedelic poster art of the 1960’s, and, to a lesser degree, modern movements such as abstract expressionism. There are elements of nostalgia, folk art and psychedelia in almost all of Jay’s work.

Homegrown local Montanan, J.R. Rummel is remembered as an accomplished artist, folk musician and western mythological folklorist. This gritty original folk single, of the same title as the print shown below, is a prime example of his contribution and legacy: lady-from-missoula-county

Lady from Missoula County


















Before college, Rummel worked at the Montana Historical Museum with K. Ross Toole and at the Archie Bray Foundation with Rudy Autio and Peter Voulkos.  He then studied ceramics at the University of Montana, again under Autio, before spending nine years as a production potter in the Los Angeles area and a mold-maker in Sausalito.

Prior to returning to Montana in 1976, Rummel exhibited his artwork at the Everson Museum in Syracuse, New York; Scripps College in Claremont, California; and the Smithsonian Museum in Washington D.C. Rummel’s work significantly extended the focus and mannerism of the art of the American West.  To the traditions of western artists such as Remington, Russell, Paxson and Sharp, Rummel added a personal psychic and spiritual involvement with history, myth and folklore. The result is a mature, contemporary vision of Montana accompanied by a strong narrative of allegory and parable.  Rummel’s art is in part influenced by his love for and practice of folk music. In the same way that abstract expressionists were influenced by jazz, he wrote, ‘I feel a direct relationship between folk/country music and the narrative direction of my visual art.’ Rummel describes his work as “flowing narrative of [the] history and legends of a people, their relationship to a locale, in effect, a visual folk song.”  Rummel lived and worked in Missoula, Montana and was the subject of a retrospective that was being planned by the Missoula Art Museum just prior to his death in 1998.


Luke’s Beer Emporium (1975-1990)


Poodle-free Montana… it was graffittied onto the wall in the womens’ restroom at the—very sadly—now defunct, Luke’s Bar… on Front Street (so named because go one block further south and you hit the Clark Fork River, this river splits the city just about in half).

Luke’s was a for real honest to god, line of 30 plus harley’s parked outside, biker bar, named for one of Hank Williams, Sr’s personas, Luke the Drifter.  $2 pitchers…local famous and not so famous poets and writers, a pizza joint in the basement.   Mixing with the bikers were people of every sort and stripe.   Amazingly, there was little friction amongst the patrons on most nights.

On the walls, hung Lee Nye’s full size collection of the Missoula Eddie’s Club bar crowd dating from the 1950s.   Each photo showed a uniquely weathered face; a gold star was pasted in the corner of the one’s who had died.   The place got its own gold star in 1990 when the doors closed forever.

Visit Luke’s Bar on Facebook


Alexis Carmel Alexander

Alexis in Monte Dolack’s 1977 Aber Day Poster














On almost any given night during the 1970s, Alexis could be seen holding court at the Top Hat or the Flamingo Lounge at the Park Hotel.  Her regal bearing, ample figure and original style of dress were unmistakable and unique.  We understand she left the Missoula area some years ago, but hope she is still alive and kicking.


Highlander Beer (1910-1920) (1933-1964)


The old Garden City Brewery, established in the late 1800s, sat at the base of Waterworks Hill near Rattlesnake Creek in Missoula. Over time the brewery became home to Missoula’s famed Highlander beer, a regional favorite that disappeared in 1964 and was recently revived. - Photo courtesy of Bob Lukes
The old Garden City Brewery, established in the late 1800s, sat at the base of Waterworks Hill near Rattlesnake Creek in Missoula. Over time the brewery became home to Missoula’s Highlander beer.















Missoula Brewing Co. in the 1930s


Highlander Beer was first sold in 1910.   After ratification of the 18th Amendment, the brewery survived making near beer and soda.  Renamed Missoula Brewing Company in 1933 after Prohibition ended, production of Highlander Beer resumed.   In 1944, the company was purchased by Emil Sick of the Rainier Beer empire, and went from a local favorite to statewide fame.   Production of Highlander ceased in 1964 when the building, which sat just west of Madison Street north of the railroad tracks, was razed to make way for I-90.

“Uncle Charlie” Harnois (1856-1941)

Emma and Charles Harnois circa 1890 (above) and circa 1930 (below)

“Uncle Charlie” Harnois was a well-known and beloved figure in and around Missoula as the 19th century turned into the 20th.   At that time, he’d already established a long and colorful history in Montana.

In 1875, Missouri resident Charles Albert Harnois (b. October 31, 1856) joined the great westward migration by getting a job as cabin boy on the Josephine, a steamboat that traveled the Missouri River from Yankton, South Dakota to Fort Benton, Montana (the main pre-railroad route from the east to the Montana gold fields). During this period he married wife Emma and the 1880 census show the couple and their two boys claiming residence in North Dakota.

Charlie moved the family to Montana shortly after the 1880 census was taken, first to the gold camp Maiden where he ran a very successful restaurant, and later to Helena, where a third son was added to the family. When the Northern Pacific railroad arrived in 1883, he got a job as an on-board news agent.  He moved the family to Missoula in 1888 when the Bitterroot Branch of the line was nearing completion.

A small slight man, who had to buy his clothing in the boy’s department of the Missoula Mercantile, Charlie started a local business hawking newspapers and posting advertising bills.  Seen whipping around town on a horse-drawn, paper-laden logging sled, Uncle Charlie was instantly recognizable on the streets of Missoula.  He was so popular and successful, he soon expanded his advertising endeavors to Helena, Butte and Anaconda.

The Harnois home (circa 1930)

The Harnois home (circa 1930)

In 1889 the Harnois family bought land in the newly platted Knowles subdivision and, by 1890, they’d built one of the first houses located on the south side of the Missoula River.  (Owing to Charlie’s later success in the theater business, the small one and a half story folk Victorian with a stable in back was substantially enlarged around 1907 by adding an east wing, octagonal tower and front veranda.  The home still stands at 519 South 3rd Street West.)

Throughout the 1890s, Charlie traveled the western part of the state doing his advertising gig, which seems to have eventually landed him jobs in the theater business in Helena and Butte.  Indeed, the family must have moved to Butte for a time, for the census of 1900 show them living there.

Perhaps tired of his peripatetic lifestyle, Charlie finally settled his family down in Missoula just after the turn of the century, taking over management of the Bennett theater.  Later he invested in and managed the Union theater.  Flat broke after the latter burned, local friends and investors in 1909 built him his own grand new playhouse, the Harnois Theater, named for their beloved Uncle Charlie. All three sons also worked at the Harnois in various capacities.

Charlie ran the Harnois until 1914 when, perhaps seeing the handwriting on the wall for light opera and vaudeville acts as feature length movies made their debut, he sold the theater and moved his whole family to the warm climes of Santa Ana, California.  For many years, he owned and operated a book and curio store there, but remained ever nostalgic for Missoula and his days on the Montana frontier. Uncle Charlie passed away in 1941.

Missoulian June 5, 1941

Monk’s Cave

Monk's Cave stage 1968 - "The Aliens" from Seattle playing their last gig ever


Those in the know tell us that, in the early ’60s, the bar in the basement of the building on the SW corner of Ryman & Broadway was called The Candle.  At some point the place was purchased by Mike Monk, who changed the name to Monk’s Cave, which it was in 1968 when the above photo was taken.

The 1970s saw the heyday of music in downtown Missoula, for in 1971 the drinking age was lowered to 19 and on July 1, 1973 it was further lowered to 18.  Music venues were thus provided with thousands of newly-legal student patrons .  By 1973, Monk’s Cave had become The Cave, the hard rock bar in town.  Indeed, one could hear “Smoke on the Water” covered just about any evening.

Montana raised the drinking age to 19 in 1979, and under pressure from the federal government, back to 21 in 1987.  The resulting massive reduction in University customers spelled the end of many nightclubs.  The Cave however died prematurely, owing some say to bikers invading the place, starting fights and causing havoc.  One former patron tells the story of one, then another, and another less-than-friendly biker sitting down without a word at a table shared by he and a friend.  He relates, “They obviously wanted the table, so we left.  That was the end of the place for me.”   Toward the last, a sign was posted at the front door, “No Colors Allowed.”  Evidently, the tactic didn’t work.  The bar was shuttered in 1978.

Except for Mike Monk’s short-lived attempt in ’81 or ’82 to revive Monk’s Cave, the space sat empty for years, it finally reopened around 1988 as Amvets Bar, catering to veterans in the daytime and a gay clientele at night.   Amvets closed in 2010 after being cited by the health department.  The bar re-opened in 2011 as Monk’s, a name harkening back to its 60’s incarnation.   Appropriately enough, the joint still looks basically the same as its namesake did in this photo from 1968 (allowing of course for changes in hair and clothing styles).

The Flame Lounge (1946-1981)

 The Flame on West Main (just east of the Missoula Club) was the perfect place for a clandestine rendezvous.  Dimly lit by rose-colored ceiling-washing cove lighting, the back room, which could be accessed from the alley, was lined with red leather tufted booths one could sink into so deeply as to escape all but the most determined detective.   Entering from the front, one was immediately struck by the moderne styling, from the shiny black glass facade crowned by a massive neon torch, to the aquaria and red leather tufted bar inside.   The bartenders were quite knowledgable in making any number of cocktails, many of which were years out of style.   “French 75″ anyone? 

 The Flame torch

The Flame – The bar was at the northwest corner of the front room