(Missoula Current) One of the first hospitals in Missoula found a second life recently when the owners completed a substantial rehabilitation of the property and expanded the number of apartments from 16 to 22.

The historic Thornton Hospital Building, located on the 500 block of 3rd Street West, was constructed in 1909 and served as the precursor to Community Medical Center, according to the developers.

Jesse Dodson, a development partner, said renovation plans went through a detailed review with the State Historic Preservation Office and the National Park Service. It recently received final certification, making it eligible for federal and state income tax credits.

“This project was a team effort,” Dodson said. “It could not have happened without a building owner who was dedicated to preserving and restoring the building.”

Dr. Charles Thornton and his brother, Dr. Will Thornton, were prominent figures in the early history of medicine in western Montana. Will Thornton first built a hospital in the Bitterroot Valley in 1910 and ran it until 1917, when he moved to Missoula.

He purchased the building on 3rd Street, which was originally used as apartments, and converted it into a hospital. But the hospital operation quickly outgrew the building, and it was converted back to apartments in 1922.

The historic Thornton Building before and after renovations. (Courtesy photo)
The historic Thornton Building before and after renovations. (Courtesy photo)
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According to the developers, the structure had not undergone a major rehabilitation since the 1920s. As a result, the electrical, plumbing and heating systems were failing and in need of frequent maintenance and repair.

Adding to the challenges, the roof also had begun leaking, causing damage to the parapet wall and risking the structural integrity of the building's interior. Given the prime location, the dilapidated property had emerged as a potential target for redevelopment.

But David Jolles, the building’s most recent owner, wanted to preserve and restore it, and teamed up with University Avenue Developers to rehabilitate the building, which contributes to the McCormick District National Register of Historic Places.

Dodson said the work reconfigured the building’s 16 existing apartments into 22 renovated apartments and completely replaced the plumbing, electrical, heating and venting systems, all of which had to be done while respecting historic features of the building.

“Particularly challenging was the ventilation system – the building had none – and contractors installed a system that avoided punching holes in the brick façade,” said Dodson. “The project also involved remediating asbestos, replacing windows, restoring the exterior brick, replacing the roof, stabilizing the parapet wall, and restoring historic wood trim, and lath-and-plaster in the corridors.”

He said Ronald Builders of Missoula served as the general contractor and MMW Architects served as the project architect.

“We're excited to be completing this project and setting the historic Thornton Hospital Building on course for the next 100 years,” Dodson said.

More before and after images

The historic Thornton Building before and after renovations. (Courtesy photo)
The historic Thornton Building before and after renovations. (Courtesy photo)
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The historic Thornton Building before and after renovations. (Courtesy photo)
The historic Thornton Building before and after renovations. (Courtesy photo)
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