Walking tour of Missoula

1. Wilma Building
Previously known as the Smead-Simons Building, this eight-story Sullivanesque-style building was commonly referred to as the “Showplace of Montana” after it was constructed in 1921. It was built by William “Billy” Simons, an early western entrepreneur, who produced Wild West shows and built several theaters in Oregon, Idaho and Alaska during the Gold Rush. The theater became a living memorial to his wife, Edna Wilma, a famous light opera star. The Wilma Building houses three theaters (two small cinemas and one large 1,000-seat theater), three private banquet/meeting rooms, offices and residential space. The Wilma is Missoula’s first modern steel-framed “skyscraper.”

2. Missoula Mercantile
The Missoula Mercantile was established in 1866 and eventually became one of the largest mercantile enterprises between the Twin Cities and Seattle. Many of Missoula’s most prominent business and civic leaders began their careers at “ The Merc.” Now home to the Missoula Macy’s, the building was constructed in stages between 1882 and 1891. It utilizes a vernacular commercial style and some elaborate ornamentation, including an 1890s cast iron storefront facing Higgins Ave.

3. Florence Hotel
Constructed in 1941, the Florence Hotel occupies the same site as two earlier Florence Hotels, both of which burned. Much like the east section of the Palace Hotel (Broadway & Ryman), this hotel was built to accommodate the increasing number of automobile travelers, and included an interior, multi-level parking garage. Today this excellent example of Art Moderne architecture has been converted to an office complex with retail businesses occupying the main floor. The Governor’s Room, located on the second floor, is still used as a ballroom/banquet room for special events. The Lobby was recently refurbished to its original state and is available for special events as well.

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