Missoula, Montana (population 62,000) has been a major commercial center in western Montana since it was founded in 1860 at a historically strategic point near the head of five valley systems. The Missoula Mercantile was established in 1866 and eventually became one of the largest mercantile enterprises between the Twin Cities and Seattle, making the city the largest trade center within a 75-mile radius.

The coming of the railroad changed Missoula from a town of 300 in 1883 to a city of 12,000 by 1920. Lumber and irrigation projects, the opening of the Flathead Indian Reservation, and promotion of homesteading all contributed to its growth.

Missoula also became the center of local, state, and federal government, becoming county seat in 1860, home of the state university in 1895, and site of the U.S. Forest Service Region Headquarters in 1908. New Deal projects contributed significantly to the stabilization of the city’s economy during the 1930s.

Missoula has eight historic districts listed in the National Register of Historic Places and is seeking designation for its downtown area. The city is home to several museums and archive collections, including the Historical Museum at Fort Missoula, the Missoula Museum of Art, and the Montana Museum of Art and Culture. “Hallways to History”, at the Southgate Mall, is a historic photography exhibit open to the public. A downtown historical walking tour takes visitors by 15 historic buildings.

Designated a Preserve America Community in April 2006.


For more information

City of Missoula Historic Preservation Office

Missoula History

Missoula Downtown Partnership