Harmon’s Histories: Hammond Arcade rises once more to celebrate Art Deco past
“Live, by remote control,” direct from the studio in the Hammond Arcade, it’s “Paul Keith and His Arcade Orchestra!”
That’s right, Missoula's Hammond Arcade had its own orchestra, appearing on its own radio show (the Hammond Radio Review) for the downtown building’s grand opening in 1934.
The broadcast took place Friday and Saturday, March 23 and 24 from 3 to 5 p.m., and again from 7 to 9 p.m. on KGVO radio!
The new Hammond Arcade rose from the ashes of the original “Hammond block,” a four-story brick building constructed in 1890.
The original block, destroyed by fire on October 9, 1932, included 10 businesses on the ground level, plus 25 apartments and offices above.
The state highway commission had offices on the second floor. The division engineer lost his personal diary books and “some records, maps and equipment.”
Dr. F.G. Dratz, a local dentist, had his office on the second floor as well. He was away, fishing at Placid Lake, at the time. When he returned, he was able to salvage his records, stored in a steel cabinet.
Other tenants like the Postal Telegraph Company and a hamburger shop scrambled to find temporary business quarters, as did the largest tenant, the Missoula Drug Company.
Although damage was estimated at $200,000 ($4,350,510 in today’s dollars), Sid Coffee and his partners, Walter L. Pope and Oakley E. Coffee, owners of the 100 block of South Higgins, did not hesitate in announcing immediate plans to rebuild.
They were true to their pledge. A year and a half later, the reconstruction was complete and the grand opening was announced.
The new building, while not the multi-story structure it replaced, was celebrated as a “new, fireproof structure, built of reinforced concrete. It covered “more than 11,000 square feet” and included “two city blocks of glass ... the only (such building) of its kind in Missoula.”
The interior was finished with Philippine mahogany and “exquisite (tile flooring) that harmonized with the interior decorations.” The central heating system, located in the basement, eliminated the need for unsightly radiators.
The stoker-fired boiler was “believed to be one of the most up-to-date heating systems in the Northwest.”
The plumbing and heating contractor, Pope & Hintz, was also proud of the modern women’s restroom “located on the main floor and open to the public at all hours.”
Flash forward to 2023, and we find the current owner of the block announcing plans to remodel again, this time honoring the 1934 Art Deco design (which had been altered considerably over the years).
Nick Caras told the Missoula Current, “With these improvements, the building will be one step closer to its original design and another step closer to being more accessible and approachable to the Missoula downtown community.”
Jim Harmon is a longtime Missoula news broadcaster, now retired, who writes a weekly history column for Missoula Current. You can contact Jim at email@example.com. His best-selling book, “The Sneakin’est Man That Ever Was,” a collection of 46 vignettes of Western Montana history, is available at harmonshistories.com.