Old Missoula

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"A Charmed Life" - Old Jumbo Saloon

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Missoula Landmark Demolished

Old Jumbo Saloon Is Torn Down by Building Inspector – 38 Years Old.

Missoula lost another of its oldest landmarks yesterday when the building inspector, following an order of the city council, started to tear down the ruins of the old Jumbo saloon, which was destroyed by fire last fall. The old building was condemned some time ago by Inspector May both as a fire trap and as being liable at any time to collapse into the street. The owners of the building, however, paid no attention to the orders of the inspector, and so the council ordered that it be torn down by the city.

The old building, which was a log structure with a frame front, was built in 1871, at the time of the Cedar creek stampede, by T. J. McNamara, who used it as a saloon. At this time West Front street was the business center of the town, and so in 1873, two years after its completion, the owner, together with Tom Williams, started up a general merchandise business in the building. The old place served in this capacity until the business district began to move onto Higgins avenue and Main street, when it again reverted to its former state as a saloon, for which purpose it has been used ever since.

Until the fire of last year, which destroyed it, the old building seemed to bear a charmed existence. It has been the stopping place of two of the biggest fires that the city has ever had, and was the barrier which had stopped the progress of six or eight lesser fires. Its first experience was when the big fire which destroyed the buildings from the Hammond block corner west started. Dwight Harding was mayor of the city at the time, and when the fire began to look threatening he ordered the Jumbo building torn down. McNamara, however, protested and the building was allowed to stand, with the result that when the fire struck the log walls of the building it was checked and controlled, only the roof of the building being harmed.

Its next experience was in 1892 when all of West Front street caught on fire and threatened to destroy the town, but again the Jumbo came to the rescue and the fire got no farther than its west wall.[1] Again at two different times the Mascot theater, which stood on the site of the Exchange saloon burned, but the old Jumbo held back the fire. These were the principal instances of the charmed life it seemed to lead, but there were also a number of smaller fires, all of which were stopped as soon as they reached the building. These numerous occasions gave the building a reputation as a stopper of fires, and it is an example of the irony of fate that the building which had so successfully warded off destruction from without and which had so many times saved other buildings should at last be destroyed itself by fire from within its own walls. This is the history of one of the city’s oldest landmarks, and today the final chapter is being added by the building inspector and men, who are tearing down what remains of the old building.

The above article appeared in The Daily Missoulian on March 5, 1909.



[1] This was the fire in which Maurice Higgins was murdered while he assisted in stopping it.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 07 February 2018 17:23