Historic Spotlight: The Main Street Historic District

Courtney Kramer

The City recently reviewed plans to modify the retail storefronts in the Hathorn Building, at 29-43 West Main Street, vacated by the Leaf and Bean and Poor Richards after the sale of those businesses. Continued investment in the Hathorn Building by retailers and residents is a testament to the durability of the century-old mixed use buildings which characterize Bozeman’s Main Street commercial core.

The Hathorn Block is representative of the community’s growth at the turn of the 20th century. Prior to 1900, Bozeman’s primary commercial core sat along East Main Street from Rouse to Black Avenues. One and two story buildings constructed during Bozeman’s townsite and village phases were constructed of wood and brick, while the Hotel Bozeman and City Hall and Opera House dominated the Main and Rouse intersection. Expansion of industrial facilities tied to the area’s agricultural productivity, including development of a cereal mill, brewery, malting company and the pea canneries drew new workers to the area, which meant a healthy economy for merchants and real estate concerns.

Sanborn Maps indicate that some commercial development occurred on this block before 1900. A Wagon storage shed sat in the middle of the property, while a grain warehouse sat on the north east corner of Willson and Main.

In 1895, Bozeman merchant E. Broox Martin acquired lots 10, 11 and 12 of Block A of Tracy’s first addition to Bozeman and commissioned a two story commercial building for the site. Historic photographs, available at the Gallatin History Museum, show a brick building with two ground-floor retail spaces featuring large plate-glass windows and prismatic glass transoms to bring light into the building. Large cloth awnings provided shade for the retail windows, which faced south. A door offset to the east gave access to office buildings on the second floor. The arches above the second floor windows appear to be filled with stained glass. A crenellated brick parapet gave the building a taller appearance.

The 1904 Sanborn Map indicates the ground floor spaces used by a plumbing shop, an upholsterer and a printing shop. The blacksmith shop remained on the corner of Willson and Main, while to the east a Chinese Laundry operated. Martin acquired the laundry, as well as the 16 foot wide gap between the blacksmith shop and his building, and constructed identical brick buildings in their place in 1905. These buildings included a single storefront with central door flanked by large plate glass display windows. The same prismatic glass transom provided light to the retail space, while an oriel window on the second floor jutted out above the sidewalk. The brick parapet ended just short of the older building, giving Martin’s block a formal appearance.

In many ways, Broox Martin and his wife Ella Clark Martin epitomize the variety of opportunities in Montana at the beginning of the 20th century. Before moving to Montana, Martin spent twenty five years operating a milling company and serving on the City Council in his native Reed City, Michigan. A fire in 1889 destroyed Martin’s milling operation and prompted relocation to Montana. Upon arriving in Bozeman, Martin organized the Bozeman Milling Company, which still stands on North Rouse Avenue (where Pizza Campagnia is now located). Martin also partnered with George Ramsey, George Cox and Joseph Kountz to organize the Commercial Exchange Bank with a capital of $50,000 in 1892.

Martin sold his interest in the Bozeman Milling Company in 1894 to focus on farming and ranching. “Mr. Martin’s ranch is a model of neatness, taste and intelligent cultivation,” noted Progressive Men of Montana. The article went on to describe Martin’s irrigated ranch on Huffine Lane, where he grew oats and hay. Martin also owned 640 acres on the west side of the West Gallatin River where he raised large crops of dry-land wheat, oats and barley. In June 1908, Martin was involved in a demonstration of dairying train that gave demonstrations of mechanical milking of dairy cows across the state. At the same time, Martin also worked to establish the sugar beet farming industry in the Gallatin Valley as well as a processing facility in Manhattan.

Martin continued investing in real estate. In 1905, he commissioned the three-story Michigan Block (where Wild Joe’s is now located), which was named for the Martin’s home state. Rather than business suites, as in the Martin Block, Martin installed apartments on the second and third floor of the Michigan Block. Martin’s other investments in rental residences included the Clark Apartments on South Grand in 1914, which were given Mrs. Martin’s maiden name and Evergreen Apartments, at West Koch and South Third, in 1918.

Martin also reinvested in the Martin block during this time period. The 1912 Sanborn Maps of the property indicate the presence of “Martin’s Central Heating Plant,” which included a coal-fired Ingersoll Rand generator. The power plant sat in the center of what is now the parking lot north of the commercial buildings, to the south of the alley. The proximity to electric power drew businesses who needed a power source for machinery. Ground floor businesses included an electric printing shop in a new brick building on the corner of Main and Willson, as well as an electric-powered creamery to the north along North Willson and an electric powered sausage factory. The Martin Central Heating Plant remained in place until the late 1950’s.

The Martins participated in a number of community interests. Ella Clark Martin arranged the acquisition of the Beall homestead, on North Bozeman Avenue, by the City of Bozeman in 1920. She commissioned W.R. Plew, an instructor of architectural engineering, to design a Craftsman-style community center for the site in 1927. The Beall Park Center is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places. In an interview with the Gallatin History Museum, Malcom Story remembered Ella Martin who, “Drove an electric car in Bozeman, the first one that I remember seeing.”

Broox Martin died in 1921, leaving widowed Ella to manage the family’s business interests. Her obituary in 1940 noted that she remained active. “Mrs. Martin has traveled extensively but has always maintained her home in Bozeman. She returned to her home here last April after spending four months in the Hawaiian islands.”

Ella sold the Martin Block and Michigan Block to John A. Lovelace in the mid 1930’s. Lovelace began his career as a Livingston merchant. In 1909, John Lovelace married Montana “Tan” Hathhorn, who grew up on a ranch in the Paradise Valley. Lovelace moved his business interests to Bozeman where he and Tan raised sons Jack and Daniel. The City of Bozeman employed Daniel Lovelace as the City’s Attorney in the 1950’s.

Jack Lovelace attended Bozeman schools before graduating from Washington and Lee University in Virginia in 1931. He returned to Bozeman and married Winifred Story in 1933, daughter of Byron and Katherine Story and granddaughter of Bozeman founder Nelson Story.

Jack founded Lovelace Motor Supply in Bozeman and initially rented one of the ground floor retail spaces of the Martin Block. He partnered with his father John to acquire the Martin and Michigan Blocks from Ella Clark Martin in the 1930’s. Lovelace commissioned the design of a machine shop from Bozeman architect Fred Willson in 1940. The brick building, built across the alley to the south of the Michigan Block, was built in phases with a planned but not built third phase. It now bears the iconic ghost sign of “Montana Motor Supply.” Lovelace Motor Supply eventually expanded into a chain of stores and machine shops in Livingston, Dillon and Helena.

About the same time, the Lovelaces worked with Willson to unify the Martin Block into a more modern façade and remodel the second floor space into apartments. It’s possible that this work was directed by Montana Lovelace and Winifred Story Lovelace, as Jack Lovelace served as a Major in the US Army during World War II. Willson’s design set, dated July 6, 1944, Depicts changes to the interior second floor which created 10 apartment  units, each with a small kitchen, living room, dining room and bedroom and attached bath, centered around a central “courtyard” decorated with a picket fence and skylight.

Willson’s design for the Martin Block included an Art Deco style concrete “skin” to unify the upper façade. The taller parapets were shortened to make the building one unified height, the arched windows were covered and the second floor oriel windows replaced with hung windows to match the central portion of the building. Chrome Art Deco lettering renamed the building in a shortened version of Montana Lovelace’s maiden name, the Hathorn Building. Willson’s design also introduced new art-deco style storefronts. The Lovelaces completed a similar project across the street on the Michigan Block, remanded the Lovelace Building, around the same time. Infogg Johnson served as the contractor for the project. Willson designed a similar project for the Masonic Building on Main and Tracy in 1949.

“A few years after Lovelace’s extensive remodeling, Bill MacCleod, owner of the 20bay wide building at the northeast corner of Main Street and Willson Avenue, followed suit, and remodeled his building to match the adjacent Hathorn Building,” noted the 1986 Main Street Historic District nomination of the Hathorn Block.

The Lovelace’s development of Lovelace Realty, to own and manage rental apartments, was well timed. The end of World War II in 1945 meant the return of servicemen to the States, as well as GI Bill-related growth of the MSU student population. By 1947, there were 39 residential units on either side of Main Street between Willson and Tracy. Most of these units were rented to at least two people, which increased the residential density of the block.

Jack Lovelace died in 1973 and Winifred Story Lovelace in 1988. The Hathorn Building was divided into privately owned residential and commercial condominiums  at the end of the 20th century. The condominium board and the City of Bozeman work together to ensure that modifications to the Hathorn Building honor the building’s history while enabling new investment in Bozeman’s Main Street Historic District.    

This was made by

Courtney Kramer

Courtney Kramer is a proud graduate of MSU’s History Department and serves as the City of Bozeman’s Historic Preservation Officer. She may be contacted at the City Planning Office, 406-582-2260 or via email at ckramer@bozeman.net(ckramer (at) bozeman [d0t] net,). More information about Bozeman’s historic districts is available at www.preservebozeman.org.

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