Havre, Montana, (population 10,000) can trace its beginnings to the 1879 construction of Fort Assinniboine in north central Montana. At that time, it was the second largest fort in the western territories of the United States.
The Great Northern Railway soon followed, heading to the west coast and south to connect with the Union Pacific Railroad. The railroad through northern Montana sparked the construction of many towns, including the new railroad hub complex at Havre, which incorporated in 1893.
The railroad brought immigrants, coal miners, laborers, and farmers. Havre’s population boomed, but a major fire in 1904 wiped out much of the business district, which was then rebuilt as a modern brick and electrified city.
The railroad and agriculture continue to provide many jobs, and Havre’s economic base has expanded into education, the gas and oil industry, and the retail, medical, and hotel sectors. Havre is also growing in popularity as a major cultural tourism destination.
One of the city’s most important attractions is Havre Beneath the Streets, a collection of exhibits in block-long tunnels located under the city. These passageways were originally created after the Fire of 1904 wiped out most of Havre’s business district, and many businesses moved underground while they rebuilt. Exhibits include original burnt-out businesses as well as re-creations of a car repair service, meat market, bakery, tamale shop, drugstore, bordello, and opium den, among others. Havre Beneath the Streets has attracted 126,000 visitors since its development in 1990.
Havre also offers visitors a walking tour of the residential historic district, a railroad museum, and the H. Earl Clack Museum, which displays artifacts and exhibits and provides tourist information, evening lectures and programs, and guided tours of a nearby archaeological site.
Designated a Preserve America Community in October 2007.