Yellowstone County Places

Early Hotels & Events – Their Beginnings

 [Collected from various Gen-Room books and magazines]

Revised 5/27/2012 (Corrected typo’s in IXL Building)


Picture of Hotel-Building

Remarks & Information

Willard E. “See Me” Baker founded the Baker Transfer & Storage Company in 1906. He operated out of the Oliver Building at on SW Corner of 27th Street & Montana Avenue. Later he purchased the Foster Coal Company and the Windsor Livery Stables. In 1916 he transition to Motor Trucks by purchasing the Overland & International Truck business. [Gazette Photo]

The Billings Laundry started in 1906, and was located at 101-103 N 26th. Frank T. Ryan was president. [Gazette Photo]

Originally the Driscol Hotel, it was located at 2521-2523 Montana Avenue in Billings. It had steam heat, electric lights and good sample rooms. The name was changed to “Commercial Hotel”. In 1905 rooms cost $2.00 a day. Mrs. W. W. Smith was proprietress.

The Grand Hotel was located on the corner of 27th Street and 1st Avenue North. It was built by O. M. Nickey and J. J. Walk in 1886. [Some reports state name is J. J. Nickey] Each barbershop there had six to eight tubs, and a bath cost $.25. Originally it had 30 sleeping rooms, with no plumbing. A full course steak dinner cost $.75. In 1896 it was sold to George Benninghof from David Pratt, current owner. The hotel had a 50 hp, 16-passenger bus that served their customers. In 1908 the hotel added the third floor, along with private baths, and an elevator. In 1921 the hotel was tore down and replaced by a four-story one called New Grand Hotel. In 1945 the anme was changed to Hotel General Custer. It was managed in 1905 by George F. Benninghoff.

[Polk Photo retouched by Gazette]

L. H. Fenske Building at 2623 Montana Avenue in Billings. Mr. Fenske was a wholesaler in wines, liquors and cigars. He was the sole agent for Blatz Milwaukee Beer.

This was the site (located on 1st Ave N and Broadway in Billings) selected for the Northern Hotel in 1901. Construction started in 1902 and was completed in 1904. It had 69 rooms, but no lobby. Preston Moss and H. W. C. Rowley teamed together to build the hotel. The hotel had an ‘alley’ entrance for family members. Two wings were added, and in 1914 the lobby was constructed. An additional floor was added in 1916. George F. Shea was proprietor for 25 years. Rooms cost $1.00 a day in 1916.






The hotel boasted as having the best lobby in the west.





The original structure burned down on September 11th, 1940, and a new 10-story structure was built by Preston Moss (who was in his 70’s) to replace it.

The Cottage Inn was built by Frank McCormick c 1900. It was located at 1st Ave N and 29th St in Billings. It challenged the Grand Hotel for supremacy. It was later moved to 2223 1st Ave N and became known as the Montana Hotel. In this photo are Frank with members of his family, and the hotel clerk, Matt Deacol.

The Vaughn-Ragsdale building was later constructed on the 29th St site.

If you look closely enough, you can just make out the Headquarters Building blocking the intersection of Broadway Avenue and Montana Avenue (See Arrow). The building was originally constructed by the railroad as the Engineer’s building in 1882. After its usefulness for the railroad was completed, it was moved to this prime location and became a popular hotel, bar and social club. On July 21, 1891 it mysteriously burned down, much to the relief of Billings’ residents.

The three story brick Billings Brewery was built in 1899, directly across the street from the railway depot. It employed 40 people and sold beer at 5 cents per glass, or by the keg until prohibition. It was torn down in 1959. It could produce 15,000 barrels of keg and bottled bear a year. It included a malting house, bottling space, stables and employee cottages. Its refrigeration plant used 20 tons of ice daily.

The initial investment was $50,000.

The “Big Ditch” was started in 1882 by the Billings Land and Irrigation C.. It was intended to provide water to flush the streets and water parks in Billings, a dream that failed. It did provide water for irrigation. H. W. Rowley engineered the project, and I. D. O’Donnell constructed it. The ditch was initially called “ the M&M Canal”, and on July 30th, 1883 water was turned into it. On May 15, 1900 the project became a co-operative enterprise when the farmers took over. The ditch provided water for the High Line and Snow Ditch Companies. By 1886 the company had built of a mile of canal, 28 feet wide and 10-feet deep, around the rapids on the river, proving a 14-foot drop in elevation for the water flow.

Bruce Cook Transfer & Storage, located at 3rd Ave and Broadway ave in Billings. (1907) He started the business in 1904, consisting of one cart and a horse.

Bruce was born April 2 1886 in Iowa, and came to Billings after 1900. He married Pearle Dool on January 3, 1910. He operated his business with horse drawn vans until 1956.

Started in early 1925, Ulysses and Eugene Lisa began their bakery in this building. They made and sold “Fairy Kist” doughnuts. On July 4th, 1925 they bought into the Ideal Bakery on 29th street in Billings, and began producing a line of various baked goods.

In 1930 the moved to new and larger quarters.

The private Bailey and Billings Bankers, located in the IXL Building at 2707 Montana Ave, opened on May 26, 1896. It was managed by Parmly Billings and his cousin, Edward Bailey. In 1891 the bank was succeeded by the Yellowstone National Bank. Thirty years later it merged with the Merchant’s National Bank. In 1923 it re-organized as the Midland National Bank, and remained at the office location on Montana Ave and 28th St. until 1955.


(Refer to IXL Link for full details)

Billings city hall in 1912. Battery powered streetcars were in use at this intersection of 1st Ave N and Broadway. The Billings Traction Co. installed the system and it operated between 1912 and 1916. It was determined that Billings wasn’t large enough to have a transportation system and the operation folded. The automobile took over. Oilman David Gunsburg from Buffalo, NY was the biggest investor. Billings residents who invested at $5,000 were: Joseph Zimmerman, Col. Rowley, W. Johnson, Lee Mains, T.A. Snidow, and J. B. Arnold. Billings residents voted on June 20, 1910, 183 to 15 to install the system. After WWI most of the track was ripped up, others were removed by WPA projects in 1936. The lies ran throughout the city, much like the bus routes of today. The cars could operate up to 18 hours on a battery charge. Plans to extend the line throughout Clarks Fork valley and Yellowstone Park were being made at the time it closed.

Early days found the line victim of ‘payroll padding’, an offense that mandated a 90day to one year jail sentence.

The J. C. Penney Company was established in Billings in January 1928 at the corner of N 29th Street and 2nd Avenue. It was first managed by J. C. Beatly.

In 1946 the location was changed.

Sisters of Charity, in 1898, established St. Vincent’s Hospital on Division Street, with the assistance of Dr. Chapman. They pioneered the change in understanding of hospitals, which were considered to be ‘pest’ houses at best.

  Email me:
Katy Hestand
Yellowstone County Coordinator

© 2014 MTGenWeb