Photo: Homes on South 3rd Street in the McCormick Neighborhood Historic District, The District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2004. Photographed by User:Robstutz (own work), 2020, [cc-4.0], via Wikimedia Commons, accessed January, 2022.
The McCormick Neighborhood Historic District [†] lies just south of the Clark Fork River and the downtown area, and can be accessed from the downtown by crossing the Orange Street Bridge. The district is surrounded by residential neighborhoods to the south, east and west, with the University of Montana located approximately one mile to the east of the district. The district lies within the platted areas of Knowles Addition Numbers 1 and 2, and along a small portion of the Montana Rail Link right-of-way, located along the western edge of the district.
The McCormick district is a cohesive neighborhood characterized by middle class and moderate upper class homes. The buildings reflect styles that are loosely followed and display popular local trends in building designs, as well as in the use of materials and decorative features. Folk, Queen Anne, American Foursquare and Craftsman designs are well represented, with a few examples of Neoclassical, Tudor, Prairie, and International styles located in the area.
On average, city blocks have been subdivided into 12 lots with lot sizes measuring 50' x 130'. The neighborhood is platted on a north/south grid, with 20' wide alleys. Streets are typically 80' wide. The district is made up of 17 full and 15 partial blocks that contain 571 buildings. A majority of the buildings are residential with several commercial and industrial businesses located along the outer edges of the district. Dwellings date back earlier than 1891, but a majority of the residential buildings were erected between 1902 and 1912. Residential construction continued at a slower pace through the late 1920s and a small number of buildings were constructed throughout the 1930s. Development continued to trickle into the district after World War II on subdivided lots or on the few vacant lots that had remained. Although construction during the early 1940s is rare throughout Missoula, an interesting story lies in the nearly one full city block of McCormick residential dwellings that were constructed during WW II, and possibly during a nation wide ban on domestic housing construction.
While many of the dwellings are modest single-family residences, a large number of multi-family dwellings exist. A majority of the residential dwellings are 1 and 1 1/2-story wood-frame buildings. A number of non-resident owners have converted single-family residences to apartments, while several resident owners utilize second-story conversions or additions as apartments. In addition, the utilization of transportation related outbuildings as owner income properties is an historic trend that was set as early as 1893, and continues today.
Although a majority of the district is residential, the area has played a significant part in the early and continuous commercial and industrial development of Missoula. A large number of entrepreneurs have lived and worked within the district and the neighborhood has always been encompassed by commerce and industry that have in part, created the historical boundaries of the neighborhood. The McCormick district generally developed as an extension of Missoula's commercial downtown area, with a large number of residents working within the district. Employment opportunities included large industries that were located in and directly around the neighborhood, while many residents provided goods and services out of their homes. Still others worked in close proximity to the district, in the heart of Missoula's downtown. The neighborhood helped serve as a catalyst for the developing city, and therefore developed as a direct extension of the booming downtown. The district is unique, however, in that it has maintained its residential feel while developing as a central focal point of the city.
The development of the McCormick neighborhood began as the vision of Hiram Knowles, a prominent developer in Missoula and western Montana. The location of the district helped to create a prosperous neighborhood due to the proximity of the railroad and the various industries that developed along with and around the railroad. Over the years industry and commerce surrounded the area that still to this day, remains a cohesive residential neighborhood.
The developing years of the district came during a time when Montana had just entered statehood and Missoula was developing as a major regional trade center. Trade involved agriculture, cattle and the production of various resources that were then supplied to areas of Western Montana and beyond. Goods were shipped from Missoula to hundreds of communities, to include the mining and timber camps of the western frontier. Hiram was an early pioneer who came to Missoula and quickly became associated with development through property investments, and the Knowles Additions are some of Missoula's earliest neighborhood developments on the south side of the river. The district's architecture and its colorful resident history appears to have changed little over the years. The district has remained an attractive and prosperous neighborhood due in part to the many residents who are proud of their neighborhood, its history and the people who have shaped it. The district is considered significant under Criterion A and C, and its significance is summarized below.
The historic period, or the period of significance established for the McCormick district is 1889 to 1952. The period is based on significant periods that include the initial platting of the Knowles Addition in 1889, the construction boom of 1907-1912 when a majority of the homes were constructed, and an almost fully developed area by 1938, just after the Parkway Bridge was constructed. The historic period also includes spurts of commercial development from the late 1930s through the 1950s, as well as the modern housing construction that trickled into the district during the same period. The modern housing is representative of a growing national trend toward condensed building, additional multi-family housing and simplified architectural forms. The modern housing trend is a contrast to the early historic period that often included sprawling properties and ornate architectural designs. The year 1952 has been chosen arbitrarily as the end of the historic period based on National Register guidelines that require that "generally properties must be fifty years of age or more to be considered historic places." A majority of the area's single-family dwellings follow national and local trends in architecture and resemble styles that were popular during the Victorian and Eclectic movements. Apartment buildings are also plentiful, and their styles reflect various architectural movements. Several apartment buildings were constructed prior to 1912 and generally represent the architectural designs of the Eclectic movement. Examples include the George Apartments, a two-story brick-veneer flat located at 532 S. 3rd; the corbelled brick-veneered and plastered, wood-framed Sacajawea building with Prairie School influences located at 805 S. Orange Street; and the Thornton Apartments, a wood-frame, brick-veneer building with Colonial Revival influences. Several apartments have also been constructed more recently, to include the two-story gabled buildings at 522 Hickory and 620 Walnut, both constructed after 1958, as well as the 1950 shed roofed apartments located at 525 Cottonwood. Modern architecture is evidenced in several apartment buildings and a feature common to many of these modern buildings is that the main level is partially underground and accessed by stairwells.
Apartment living also includes a large number of converted single-family dwellings. One example is the Queen Anne and its associated buildings that are located at 633 S. 3rd W. Conversions from single-family to multi-family housing are common throughout the district, and more common among the sizable Queen Anne and American Foursquare style buildings. In contrast, at least one turn of the century apartment was designed and constructed with the appearance of a moderate-size single-family dwelling. This building is a centrally hipped stucco cottage located at 626 S. 3rd W., which was constructed as a duplex sometime between 1902 and 1912. Historically, single-family residences that have been converted to apartments or duplexes have rarely been converted back into single- family residences.
Owner occupied rentals, whether residing in the main house or in a half-residence located on the back of the lot, continues to be a common trend that was patterned in the district prior to the turn of the twentieth century. A lack of rental properties has existed throughout Missoula's history, due in part to increased numbers of laborers and working class professionals as well as the constant lack of housing for increasing numbers of university students. McCormick residents have historically remained a strong force in providing rental properties, with residential stables serving as the first noticeable owner-income property available in the neighborhood.
As early as 1893, 7 of the 13 dwellings that were mapped in the district utilized stables or a separately constructed building as a half-residence. The structures were constructed as small single-family dwellings on the back of the lot, or as a 1 1/2-story building containing a stable on the ground level and living-quarters above. The stables typically had a centrally located chimney and likely housed someone who served as a coachmen or caretaker. Several of these buildings still stand along the alleyways of the district and continue to be utilized as income properties. As transportation needs changed from horse to automobile, a majority of the outbuildings were converted into structures for housing the auto, many of which were later turned into full residences or a combination garage/studio. Several combination outbuildings were in turn converted to full rentals, and additional garages were constructed or residents would simply utilize street parking.
The city directories reveal that as early as 1907 a majority of the McCormick residents had at least one boarder living with them, while others had taken in several. By 1920 the census for the 10th precinct revealed that the district continued to have a high rental population. Few students, however, were reflected in the rental population and this is unique considering the district's proximity to the University of Montana. Rather, a large number of working class and working professional families rented the properties. Although some of the 1920 census data was not acquired, the information that was available listed a total of 266 individuals as "head of household," with 162 (almost 2/3) renting property at that time. In contrast to the rental population, a majority, or more than half (58 of the 98) of those who owned their homes listed their homes as mortgage free.
As previously mentioned the district's residential buildings reflect several architectural styles and patterns, and several examples are discussed below. The historic integrity of a majority of the following architectural examples has been retained due to the survival of their original design and materials, and the continuity of setting and location. The following examples are therefore considered to be contributing elements in the historic district unless otherwise stated. An interesting observation regarding the district's architectural styles is that although many of the dwellings reflect social status and income, there are just as many that do not. Many of the dwellings which housed prominent businessmen and women, city boosters or government officials, are relatively modest in size and decorative detailing.
The early residents of the district were a strong force of middle to moderate upper class entrepreneurs, blue collar workers, professionals and boosters. Although relatively moderate-income residents lived, worked and owned homes in the area, the historic property values in the Knowles Additions appear to have been high compared to other Missoula neighborhoods. In 1908 a corner (double) lot measuring 100 x 130 ran $2000.00-$2200.00 and the double lot was a bargain, as another advertisement claimed that single lots in the same vicinity could not be purchased for anything less than $1500.00. Another advertisement claimed that a corner lot (100 x 130) could be purchased for $2,000.00, and for $5,000.00 you could purchase a five-room house, barn and "chicken house" on a 175 x 130 corner lot. Comparatively, an advertisement running in the very next column advertised a single lot on the Southside for $425.00 and a six-room modern house on the Southside for only $2,600.00.
The 1920 census revealed that a large number of residents were immigrants from Canada, and several were French Canadians. For instance, in 1920 there were several Canadian immigrants living on the same block of River Road to include the Meloches at 621 River, the Hodgens at 602 River, and the Bishops at 640 River. Other noticeable numbers of ethnic populations residing in the district 1920 were those of Norwegian and Swedish descent.
Unlike other Missoula areas that often had large numbers of residents associated with a dominant business like the Missoula Mercantile Company, the residents of the McCormick district were more of an independent working class of grocers, contractors, mechanics, general laborers and those associated with the arts. Obvious employment patterns do exist, however, as many of the early residents worked for Missoula Gas and Coke Company, Polley's Lumber or the flour mill, all located along the Bitterroot Railroad Line. Many residents worked for newspaper and printing companies, while others were associated with the booming automobile industry, working as mechanics and salesmen for H.O. Bell Company (Ford dealership) or the Star Garage. Perhaps the largest numbers of early residents were associated with the food and building industries.
The reason that a particularly dominant employer of neighborhood residents is not apparent is likely due to the fact that the district has traditionally been home to a large number of entrepreneurs. Not only were they starting up central downtown businesses, but they were running businesses out of their homes. This pattern is still apparent today with a number of residents owning and operating home based businesses.
† Dagny K. Krigbaum, Historical Discoverises, McCormick Neighborhood Historic District, nomination document, 2003, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.
Alder Street • Ash Street • Beckwith Street • California Street • Chestnut Street • Cottonwood Street • Dakota Street • Edith Street • Florence Street • Franklin Street • Hazel Street • Hickory Street • Idaho Street • Inez Street • Ivy Street • Kern Street • Longstaff Street • Marshall Street • Montana Avenue • Montana Street • Oak Street • Orange Street • Pine Street • River Road • River Street • Rollins Street • Ronan Street • Russell Street • South 1st Street West • South 2nd Street West • South 3rd Street West • South 4th Street West • South 5th Street West • South 6th Street West • South 7th Street West • South Orange Street • Walnut Street • Wyoming Street