A VERY BRIEF HISTORY OF THE CLUBHOUSE
1885: Montana Club incorporated for “literary, mutual improvement & social purposes” for 130 members drawing from Montana Territory & beyond, including attorneys, bankers, mining, livestock & timber magnates, politicians, self-described “capitalists,”, etc. to form an exclusive men’s club.
1891: Subscription drive launched to raise $75,000 for permanent clubhouse to be designed by German-trained architect John C. Paulsen & John LaValle, with interior plans modeled after London’s “gentlemen’s clubs.” Triangular lot at Sixth & Fuller purchased for $45,000 from former Territorial Governor & club member banker Samuel T. Hauser.
1893: Clubhouse is completed & includes card rooms, reception rooms, library, “bachelor” apartments & on lower floors houses a life insurance company & Helena Water Works Co. Women are welcome only at prescribed times & only when accompanied by a member.
1903: Clubhouse burns to the ground, the fire ignited by the bartender’s son who confessed “...all that I intended to do was to have the horses run...” Insurance covers approximately $62,000 of the total $150,000 loss.
1903: Building Committee is hastily assembled from Board of Governors, setting new building’s cost at $80,000 & recommending St. Paul/New York City architect Cass Gilbert as their choice to design new Clubhouse. Gilbert was well-known in Montana due to his initial work for the Northern Pacific Railroad while employed by New York’s McKim, Mead & White. Known as the “father of the skyscraper” for his designs for the Woolworth Building in New York City, the prolific Gilbert also designed, among others, the Minnesota & Arkansas State Capitols, U.S. Supreme Court, and the A.J. Seligman home, original Northern Pacific depot & St. Peter’s Hospital in Helena.
1903: Club members instruct floor plan for new Clubhouse to be identical to that of the old but with the addition of a Rathskeller which is traditionally a bar or restaurant in the cellar of a city hall in German-speaking countries. Gilbert initially proposes new building to be in the Spanish Renaissance style with brick & terra cotta upper stories.
1904: After substantial revisions, Board of Governors approves more modest design to be built with stone for first story recycled from original Clubhouse & remainder quarried from nearby T. Kain quarry west of Helena, local Kessler/Western Clay Mfg. Co. brick, & native timber with construction by Congress Construction Co. headquartered in Chicago with branches in Seattle, New Orleans & Nebraska. George Carsley of Gilbert’s St. Paul office supervises project which is not to exceed $105,000.
1904-1905: Chicago interior design firm Mitchel & Halbach selected to decorate Clubhouse, utilizing furniture designs Gilbert had designed for Minnesota State Capitol & manufactured by Karpen Brothers also of Chicago. Lighting fixtures designed by Cleveland firm & art glass windows in sixth floor Banquet Room crafted to depict “...the progress of civilization in Montana...”
1905: New clubhouse opens to members in early summer with a final cost of $125,000