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Hi Bug Historic District

Red Lodge City, Carbon County, MT

Hi Bug Historic District

Photo: Homes in the Hi Bug Historic District, Red Lodge. The district was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1986. Photographed by User: Jon Roanhaus (own work), 2015, [cc-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons, accessed October, 2022.

The Hi Bug Historic District [†] is historically and architecturally significant because it accurately reflects the patterns of social and ethnic settlement and physical development of the City of Red Lodge, Montana, and contributes to an understanding of the current social dynamics and neighborhood patterns of the community. The period of significance for the Hi Bug Historic District spans the decades from 1890, when the first residence was constructed by J.M. Fox, manager of the Rocky Fork Coal Company, until 1930, when the district achieved its present appearance and ethnically mixed character.

The town of Red Lodge, founded in 1884, was incorporated in 1892 and grew rapidly as a support community for the major coal mines that were developed by the Rocky Fork Coal Company, a subsidiary of the Northern Pacific Railroad. With coal seams on the east bench, the west bench, and laced beneath the valley of Rocky Fork Creek, the Northern Pacific invested in a branch line to Red Lodge in 1889 to haul the coal, which was used to fuel its trains throughout the Northwest. A secure market and transportation system for the coal firmly established Red Lodge's future as an industrial city.

The intense development of the city during the period from 1896-1910 reflects turn of the century city planning practices and settlement patterns. The Rocky Fork Town and Electric Company platted the Red Lodge townsite the same year that the railroad arrived. During the summer of 1895, many residences and business blocks were moved from their clustered or randomly scattered locations by the citizens to new foundations on newly platted, grid patterned city lots. The east-west, north-south platted streets of Red Lodge were cut diagonally by the railroad, which also eventually served to separate the city into separate neighborhoods which were defined by ethnicity and economic class. The Nutting Row housing documents one response to the need for planned development during the early 20th Century housing shortage.

The Hi Bug Historic District in the northwestern part of town was recognized early as the preferred place to reside. The district was well removed and up-wind from both of the major coal mines in town, which insured the purest air of any sector of the city. It was within blocks of the commercial district, the city's schools and the three primary churches of the Anglo-Saxon residents. The railroad depot, representing access to the outside world, was nearby, but was separated from the district by the first city park.

Red Lodge is a city of several ethnic populations. The English-speaking, second generation Americans and the English, Irish, and Scottish immigrants of means formed a fairly cohesive, upper-middle and upper class group. The more affluent of this group lived in Hi Bug while others occupied the remaining western portion of the city. The Finnish miners and laborers occupied the eastern half of the city, referred to as Finn Town. The Italian residents grouped in a neighborhood at the northeast end of town. The location of the Hi Bug neighborhood with its physical advantages as well as its isolation from the rest of the community, helped to define and continue the exclusivity of the neighborhood.

The social dynamics of the teenagers of Red Lodge included the naming of various neighborhoods based more on nationality and social class rather than geographical features. The Hi Bug area was simply referred to as "North Red Lodge 11 during the early years of the historic period. During the 1920s when social intermingling between the Hi Bug residents and other ethnic groups was limited, the name "Hi Bug" was coined by the "Barndogs", a group of teenagers residing in other parts of town. Brewery Hill, where the county road ascends the west bench, and Cassidy Hill, the West 6th Street area, are other place names associated with the district.

Architecture of the Hi Bug Historic District

Many of the property owners in Hi Bug were Midwesterners whose parents probably placed great importance in providing a comfortable, presentable family home. Hie ideals of a "domestic Utopia" of the mid-19th Century, which prescribed the family home as one of the symbols of a stable, genteel, Christian family life, were likely still in force during the early period of construction within the district. The professionals, business owners, and wealthy Red Lodge citizens undoubtedly desired to maintain an upper class appearance. By owning a home in the northwestern portion of the City, with a spacious yard and surrounded by English-speaking neighbors, an aura of respectability and privilege was assured. The construction of large houses by the wealthy and professional classes can be interpreted as a clear indication of their comfortable economic status and as an expression of their confidence in the future of the community.

The architecture of the Hi Bug residences is not outstanding in design, innovative in construction, nor the work of master architects or builders. The high degree of architectural integrity of many of the structures contributes to the ability of the structures to illustrate the awareness of residents in this remote location of the architectural trends and styles of ornamentation that were popular nationally. The Hi Bug residents chose popular architectural forms and ornamentation rather than creative or innovative designs. The availability of locally milled lumber as well as fabricated components such as windows, doors, and porch supports contributed to the cohesive appearance of the carpenter/contractor-built, wood frame houses.

Although not evident from the exterior, the presence of original log cores in several structures contributes to the significance of these buildings. Log construction was the earliest building form in the area and helps document the fact that buildings were moved from the original, haphazardly laid out townsite to other neighborhoods, including Hi Bug.


The first residence constructed in the Hi Bug neighborhood was probably the Rocky Fork Coal Company manager's house erected by 1891 on Hauser Avenue near the northern end of the area; unfortunately this house no longer stands. Other early houses in the area were concentrated on both sides of 8th Street, just west of the railroad depot, and near the mine manager's residence. By 1901 there were thirty-four houses in the neighborhood; fifteen of these were built in 1900-01.

Several of the larger, more pretentious houses were built during the 1901-03 building boom, as well as many of the more modest cottages. By 1907 there were fifty-four houses in the neighborhood and most of the Hauser Avenue frontage had been built on. During this period, W.B. Nutting began his rental cottage development on Word Avenue.

Fifteen houses were built in the neighborhood between 1907-1912. Most of these additions were modest cottages, several of them rental units. Between 1912-27 seven bungalows and a cottage were built in Hi Bug. During this period the area acquired the name "Hi Bug." By 1927 there were only three single vacant lots remaining.

The historic period of the Hi Bug neighborhood extends from 1890-1930. The neighborhood was essentially built by that time which coincides with the beginning of economic decline stagnation in Red Lodge. With the closing of the West Side Mine in 1924 and the Rocky Fork Coal Mine in 1932, the 1920's were not very prosperous years. The national depression effectively curtailed all new construction in the city, and occasional remodeling projects were the only changes.

Adjacent to the neighborhood on the north are three commercial establishments that border the county road leading up Brewery Hill onto the west bench. U.E. Baumgaratner , proprietor of the City Dairy, and Dan Davis, proprietor of the ice pond and beer garden, were prominent businessmen with long-term operations. Since diary cows were not allowed in the city proper, the City Dairy supplied a valuable staple. The ice house operation certainly provided Hi Bug residents with a much appreciated commodity. Dan Davis' beer garden was a popular summer diversion. The c.1937 Pepsi bottling plant at the northeast corner of the area was in operation until c.1955.

Nutting Row

The houses on the west side of Word Avenue, though an integral part of the Hi Bug neighborhood, are also a separate planning unit in the development of Red Lodge and provide rental housing for Hi Bug residents.

W.B. Nutting, the developer of this unit which bears his name, arrived in the Red Lodge area in 1895. Nutting was involved with sheep interests, a lumber company and real estate. In 1899 and 1900 Nutting purchased the land west of and adjacent to the north section of Red Lodge which became known as the Nutting Building Sites. In 1900 he built an imposing residence at the southern end of this area, at the western end of 8th Street.

In March of 1901 the local newspaper noted that Nutting was contemplating erecting four or five tenant houses at the foot of the bench north of his own residence. The cottages would be "neat, modern units, 1-1/2 stories high with water from a private reservoir and water system;" By August the houses were completed, and J.S. Robbins had purchased one which was somewhat larger than the other four. The four identical houses were gable front cottages, sheathed with shiplap siding and enriched with patterned shingles in the gable faces. The houses had porches across the facades and one-story kitchen wings at the rear.

Nutting sold the lots in Block one of the Nutting Building Sites, the south block, from 1901-1903; he kept the rentals on Block two until 1917-20 and sold all of Block three as one parcel in 1920. He built four additional rental houses on Nutting Row between 1908 and 1912. Nutting's houses were surely a welcome addition to the neighborhood and filled a recognized need for rental housing. Nutting's tenants were mainly two groups. Prominent citizens occupied the houses temporarily while their homes were under construction, as newlyweds, and upon their arrival in the city. Several ranchers rented a Nutting house so the family could reside in town while the children attended school. Longterm residents were primarily white-collar workers.

Ninety-one percent of the structures built in the Hi Bug neighborhood by 1927 remain standing in their historic period locations; only seven houses have been removed from the area. Fifteen structures have been built in or moved into the area since 1930.

The Hi Bug neighborhood, referred to as North Red Lodge until the name "Hi Bug" was coined by school children in the 1920s, was the area where most of the English-speaking, upper-class residents of English and Irish extraction lived. These residents were undoubtedly leaders in the social, economic and physical development of Red Lodge.

Most homes in Hi Bug were owner-occupied and in addition to building or owning homes, many of the residents built one of the substantial brick or stone commercial buildings on Billings Avenue. The residents of Hi Bug were bankers, lawyers, business owners, ranchers, and local government officials. School teachers and administrators, office workers and retail clerks also lived in the neighborhood, many as boarders. Hi Bug residents employed in the mines were mostly engineers and other skilled technicians. The large homes in Hi Bug often had boarders who were children of ranchers in town for schooling, teachers, and others who belonged to the Hi Bug social group.

There were always some blue-collar workers living in the area. The two double houses on Hauser Avenue (only one of which remains), and the Conway Boarding house on 6th Street were often the homes of working class residents.

Movement of Finnish and Italian residents into the neighborhood did not occur until after 1910. An exception to this settlement pattern was Albert Budas, a prominent Swedish/ Finnish businessman who resided in the neighborhood from 1895. In 1913-14 two Finnish retailers, H.J. Pietila and Emil Heikkila, manager and assistant manager, respectively of the Kaleva Cooperative Mercantile Cooperative Association, rented a Nutting House. By 1916 the Titteringers were living at 14 West 4th which was purchased by Carl Pelo, a Finnish bookkeeper, in 1922 and was later the home of the Italian Julio family. Although there were other immigrants living in the area, James Leslie recalls that in the 1920s his parents felt they were just about the only foreign born adults residing in Hi Bug.

In addition to owning their own businesses or ranches, many Hi Bug residents had other prominent commercial and governmental positions. Nearly all Red Lodge bank board of director members were Hi Bug residents, as were the officers of the Red Lodge Townsite and Improvement Company, the Carbon Building and Loan Association and the Board of Trade. W.F. Meyer, Albert Budas, and Frank MeCleary were members of the state legislature. E.E. Esselstyn, George Bailey and George Pierson were all appointed to state government positions.

The social prominence of the residents can be illustrated by reviewing the roster of community leaders who represented various organizations paying tribute to President McKinley upon his death. The public schools, city council, county officials, the Congregational Church, as well as the Elks, Knights of Pythias, Woodmen of the World, the Knights of the Maccabees, and the AOUW were all represented by Hi Bug residents.

The women in the Hi Bug neighborhood were also social leaders. The influential Women's Club of Red Lodge, founded in 1903 by the members of the Reading Circle, consisted mostly of Hi Bug women. The first president of the group and force behind the creation of the Red Lodge Public Library was Mrs. W. F. Meyer, a long-term Hi Bug resident. The women held numerous club meetings and socials in their homes and were undoubtedly responsible for many of the social and educational activities in the city. The women were staunch supporters of their churches. Mrs. W.B. Nutting served on the committee to finance the Congregational Church parsonage. Mrs. Torreyson and Mrs. Baldwin were leaders in the Methodist Church and the Methodist Ladies' Aid Society.

A few women were also business women such as Mrs. Alphia Chapman who was responsible for the construction of her elaborate home in the neighborhood and assumed leadership of her husband's bank after his death. Nora Hogan served as County Superintendent of Schools and many other female teachers resided in the area.

† Betsy Bradley> Survey Coordinator, Carbon County Historic Preservation Office, Hi Bug Historic District, nomination document, 1985, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.


Street Names
3rd Street West • 4th Street West • 5th Street West • 6th Street West • 7th Street West • 8th Street West • 9th Street West • Hauser Avenue North • Villard Avenue North • Word Avenue North