Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Montana Club

Private men’s clubs had long been a fixture in cities back east, and as frontier settlements like Helena evolved from mining camps to towns, the uncouth image would no longer do. The first members of Helena’s far-famed Montana Club set out to prove their town as cultured as any other with elegantly appointed rooms beautifully furnished for the cultured enjoyment of its 130 members. Rules were strict. There was no gambling on club premises and no women allowed except at special events. The reading room artistically displayed all the latest newspapers. Missing was the popular Police Gazette because it was printed on pink paper and considered tacky. Bylaws forbade loud talking, eating, or drinking in the library, and neither were dogs or sleeping on the sofas allowed.

The original Montana Club (left) was destroyed in a fire in 1903. The current building (right) was finished in 1905.
Photos courtesy Helena as She Was
By the 1890s, rules relaxed and the club installed a basement bowling alley where, at certain times only, ladies were welcome. Another fund-raising scheme extended special ninety-day memberships to officers stationed at Fort Harrison. But some of the officers drank too much, became unruly, and even smuggled women into the club. Times do change! In the 1940s, the Montana Club installed slot machines in its lounge and opened the bar to women.

From Montana Moments: History on the Go
P.S. Here's a slideshow of historic photos of the Montana Club.

1 comment:

  1. ... I think I have an old club tie from there, unsure if it was for service staff or members though.