What’s happening with the Hotel Deer Lodge?
For many years there have been whispers, rumors and questions about what is happening with the historic Hotel Deer Lodge. This article should answer some of those questions. A brief history of the hotel was printed in (Silver State Post) Jul 14, 1983.
As stated in the paper Leopold Schmidt, who managed breweries in Deer Lodge and Butte founded the Olympia Brewing Company in Washington State. In 1911 he came back to Deer Lodge to promote a new hotel starting a new corporation assisted by local banker S.E. Larabie, H. J. Bielenberg, Frank Conley, C.H. Williams and Peter Pauly.
Architect H. F. Beinke from St. Louis, was selected to design the new three story brick building. The hotel opened March 20, 1912. Mayor Frank Conley and his wife were the first guests. The hotel opened with 52 guest rooms and 14 offices. The accounts all called it “one of the finest in Montana” because of the elevator and the hot and cold water in all rooms. In 1939 Andrew A. Malcolm acquired the controlling interest in the corporation and managed it thereafter. (The hotel closed in the late 1980’s)
The Hotel was purchased around the year of 2000 by some people who buy historic buildings, fix them up and sell them. With the economy in poor condition, the last building they bought in Oregon, never sold so they didn’t have the funding to fix up the Hotel in Deer Lodge.
The bad news is, the roof has been leaking for several years and each year the damage inside has gotten worse with the rain and snow melt. Pigeons have used this for life, birth and death with access through some of the broken windows.
The good news is, surprisingly enough, the structure is still strong and sturdy and worthy of restoration or rehabilitation. “Rehabilitation acknowledges the need to alter or add to a historic property to meet continuing or changing uses while retaining the property’s historic character.”
The Hotel sits in the definable Historic District of Deer Lodge and has been an eye sore for many years, not to mention the hazardous deterioration that is taking place. The cost to tear it down would be extraordinary – with no funding to do so and with the bare ground where it sits now not worth the cost of demolition this option is not reasonable.
The dilemma is what can we do? We can’t afford demolition and potential investors can’t see any reasonable return on their money to put it back into operation.
Several people have looked into buying it in the past but this project was too big for most individual developers. The cost to restore the hotel to a workable, habitable structure could not be recovered by any sort of business investment. The only way is can take on life again is through an act of love and historic preservation.”
As a non-profit corporation, the Deer Lodge Preservation, Inc. will be able to seek, write and receive grants to help with the expense of resurrection this historic building. Most grants require matching funds – and this is where the people who love Deer Lodge and historic structures can help. All donations are tax deductible and will go toward matching funds, research, abatement, restoration, rehabilitation, and corporate expenses including but not limited to taxes, insurance, debt reduction, interest on the loan and attorney fees – all to benefit Hotel Deer Lodge. But the real benefit will be to the people of Deer Lodge, Powell County, the State of Montana and the entire west for preserving this structure and the history of the west.
Hotel was built in 1911
This postcard shows the hotel in the early years when there was still the horse water station in the middle of Main Street. There were two water locations, this one and one at the intersection of Milwaukee and Main.