In 1984, I must admit, I did not look closely at the rich domestic architecture of Hamilton, especially during its boom from c. 1890 to c. 1920. When I thought of Hamilton and the term historic house I was like many other people: I thought of the Daly Mansion which actually stood outside of the town boundaries.
I missed a big story by being so limited in what I thought as historic in Hamilton. Just a quick stroll down South 3rd and 4th Streets will unveil an impressive chronological range of domestic architecture types and styles from the rather unadorned frame cottages above to the much more architecturally finished Charles Hoffman House, an important Montana example of Prairie Style in a frame two-story building.
South 3rd Street also has a strong set of bungalows, Montana style, which means that they take all sorts of forms and use all sorts of building materials.
Then the street also has bungalows that in their symmetry almost become Colonial Revival dwellings, a dash of Tudor Revival, and Colonial Revival proper, along with Art Deco influenced buildings and a Ranch style house thrown in as well, representing the middle decades of the 20th century.
South 4th Street has the same excellent range of home designs, but with a bit more of a touch of the modern and with the second half of the 20th century interpretation of Log Rustic style.
In fact Hamilton has two other worthwhile but unexpected Art Moderne styled houses scattered through the historic downtown.
Hamilton has several impressive historic church buildings such as St. Paul Episcopal and St. Francis of Assisi Catholic below, both in splendid takes on Gothic style.
Rocky Mountain Labs is not the only medical building in the historic downtown. Joining it is the Colonial Revival-styled Marcus Daly Hospital, a historic building constructed in 1930-31 with funds provided by Daly’s wife Margaret. A new hospital building opened in 1975 and the historic hospital has been converted into county offices. It is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
My favorite set of public buildings in Hamilton got back to the theme of town and ranch and how community institutions can link both. The Ravalli County Fairgrounds began on
40 acres located south of downtown on the original road to Corvallis in 1913. Its remarkable set of buildings date from those early years into the present, and the Labor Day Rodeo is still one of the region’s best.
Despite growth all around them, residents in Hamilton still respect tradition and history and the many National Register properties shown above show how private property owners have been excellent stewards in a rapidly changing landscape. This overview hasn’t shown all of the historic homes but should be enough of an introduction to tempt you to take on your own exploration.