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Wright Studies
Bitter Root Inn, Bitter Root, Montana near Stevensville (1908) (S.145)
 
This past summer my wife and I had the opportunity to travel through Montana, so she graciously allowed me a detour through the beautiful Bitterroot Valley in the Southwestern corner of Montana, just a few miles South of Missoula. The goal was two fold. To locate the original site of the Bitter Root Inn, and to document the two remaining buildings designed by Wright in the Como Orchard Summer Colony, University Heights (S.144) in Darby. They were two separate projects, financed by the same company, the Bitter Root Valley Irrigation Company, but are physically over forty miles apart. These two, along with the Lockridge Medical Clinic in Whitefish (S.425) (1958) make up the three Wright projects in Montana.
      In preparation for our trip I contacted John Stroud, an author and local historian, born, raised and living in the Stevensville area of the Bitterroot Valley. I met John in town at the local Drug Store, purchased his book and had the opportunity to spend time getting acquainted with the area, stopping to see the historic St. Mary’s Mission and listening to some of the local stories, then headed out to locate the site of the Bitter Root Inn.
      Unlike the "cold inhospitable place" discovered by Lewis and Clark in September 1805, I found the Bitterroot valley beautiful and inviting, actually commenting to my wife that this would be a beautiful place to retire. Norman Maclean’s "A River Runs Through It" was written about life during the early twentieth century in Missoula, on the Northern end of the Bitterroot Mountains.
      Stevensville was the first permanent settlement in the state of Montana. It was settled by Jesuit Missionaries at the request of the Bitter Root Salish Indians. Through their interactions with the Iroquois between 1812 and 1820, the Salish leaned about Christianity and the Jesuits that worked with Indian tribes teaching them agriculture, medicine, and religion. In 1831, four young Salish men were dispatched to St. Louis to request a "blackrobe". They were directed to William Clark (Lewis and Clark). At that time Clark administered their territory. During their trip two of the Indians died at the home of General Clark. The remaining two met with Bishop Rosati who assured them that missionaries would be sent when funds and missionaries were available. In 1835 and 1837 the Salish dispatched men again. Finally in 1839 a group of Iroquois and Salish met Father DeSmet in Council Bluff, IA. He promised to fulfill their request the following year. He finally arrived two years later in Stevensville on September 24, 1841 and called the settlement St. Mary’s. He immediately built a chapel, then log cabins and Montana’s first pharmacy. In 1850 Major John Owen arrived in the valley and set up camp north of St. Mary’s. He established a trading post and military strong point named Fort Owen, which served the settlers, Indians, and missionaries in the valley. In 1853 territorial Governor Isaac Ingalls Stevens spent time surveying the area as he slowly moved west following the Lewis & Clark’s trail. He was called back to active duty with the Union Army. He was killed in action in 1862 at Chantilly. In 1864 St. Mary's was changed to Stevensville in his honor.
      In 1887 Marcus Daly, one of Montana’s "Copper Kings" came to the Bitterroot valley in search of timber for his Butte mines. He built a mill and formed the town of Hamilton. He built a beautiful summer home in 1887 and accumulated over 22,000 acres for timber and for his hobby of breeding and racing thoroughbred horses. He named his ranch the Bitter Root Stock Farm. By 1888 over one million board feet of lumber was milled every week in the Bitterroot valley. The town of Hamilton which was along the route of the Northern Pacific Railway, was incorporated in 1894. Calamity Jane even opened a cafe on Main Street in 1896. By the time Daly passed away in 1900, Hamilton was the commercial center of the Bitterroot Valley and the seat of Ravalli County.
      One of Daly’s projects was a canal and ditch system for irrigating his land. It was abandoned after his death. In 1905 Samuel Dinsmore continued the concept and started developing the "Big Ditch", an 80 mile irrigation project from Lake Como (just
 

Northwest of Darby) to Florence, just north of Stevensville. After running into financial difficulty, it was reorganized with the help of Chicago financiers W. I. Moody, Frederick D. Nichols (1906 - S.118) and others and renamed the Bitterroot District Irrigation Co. By 1904 Moody was General Manager of the Muncie Works, producing Iron and Steel as well as operating Natural Gas Wells. Their offices were in the Rookery Building in Chicago. Wright remodeled the Rookery in 1905 (S.113). Moody visited the Bitterroot Valley in 1905. By 1907 they had purchased and sub-divided large sections of the valley into 10 acre parcels for fruit orchard development. They paid $2.50-$15 per acre and resold "apple orchard tracts" at $400-$1,000 per acre. The company quickly became rich.
      By 1909 three rail lines ran to Missoula, Montana, with a connecting spur to the Bitterroot Valley. Land, transportation and water. A perfect combination. Most likely because of Nichols’ relationship with Wright and Moody’s knowledge of Wright, he was hired to design two developments. Como Orchard Summer Colony (S.144) and the Town of Bitter Root. In February 1909 Wright, Moody and Nichols visited the valley (FLWNL). Wright's first site plan for the Town of Bitter Root was rejected. His second proposal was a scaled down version which he called the Village of Bitter Root which included the Bitter Root Inn, the only structure built in the Village. It opened in October of 1909. Sales was aimed at the wealthy. The "apple boom" was on. Investors from the east were wined and dined. They were given free rail passage and transportation where they were lavishly entertained at the Bitter Root Inn. Lodging, dinner and golf were free. So was the French wine.
       There were many classic Prairie styled Wright details in the Bitter Root Inn, a paradise in the wilderness. The basic material was wood, using board and batten siding and shingles for the roof. Strong horizontal lines, low-pitched roof, broad overhanging eaves, horizontal rows of leaded or mullion divided glass windows and glass doors, two prominent centrally located fireplaces and chimneys, balconies and porches. The Dining and Reception Rooms were designed with large semicircular fireplaces. There are built-in piers or columns that could have been designed for planters or large vases like many of his buildings at that time. The drawings for the unbuilt Office in Bitter Root did include large vases. The Inn was 126 feet long and two stories tall. The first floor included a Dining Room on the north, an office in the center, a Reception Room on the South, and a large Porch on either end. The wing behind the center office included a kitchen and two additional bedrooms. An open gallery ran the length of the front of the building. The second floor included 20 Bedrooms, Men’s and Women’s Baths in center and Balconies on either end. Running water and electricity included.
      The boom was short lived. Blight destroyed much of the valley’s crop in 1913. Law suits plagued the company. They filed for bankruptcy in 1916. It ceased as an inn, but was used as a dance hall and roadhouse. Finally on July 26, 1924, fire destroyed the Bitter Root Inn.
      Wright’s second site plan for the Village of Bitter Root, which included the Inn, also include typographical markings. When matching those to existing maps, Porter Hill Road now runs through the North end of the site of the Bitter Root Inn. Little remains of the "dreams" of Bitter Root, Montana one day overtaking Missoula in size and importance. A cursory glance would reveal little of the few remnants of the original concrete foundation. The original Northwest corner property marker exists, though it can’t be confirmed it wasn’t moved over the years. About 150 yards to the North a single fire hydrant is all that remains of the town’s water system and power plant installed one hundred years ago. Dreams change, memories fade, time passes, life goes one. But if not for the dreams of Moody, Nichols and Wright, the Bitter Root Inn would never have been conceived and built.
      Text by Douglas M. Steiner, Copyright September 2009.

 
 
  Fort Owen 1853    Isaac Ingalls Stevens    Rookery Building   Locating Bitter Root Inn Site 
  Site Plan for the Town of Bitter Root    Site Plan for the Village of Bitter Root 
  Birds-eye View of Bitter Root Village    Original Floor Plan 
  Bitter Root Inn Circa 1910    Bitter Root Inn Circa 1915    View From Bitter Root Circa 1915 
  Photographs of the Site of the Original Bitter Root Inn    Books & Articles 
 
 
Fort Owen, Bitterroot Valley, Montana, September 1853
Fort Owen - Flathead Village. U.S.P.R.R. Exp. & Surveys - 47th & 49th Parallels. General Report - Plate XXX. Stanley, Del. Sarony Major & Knapp Liths. 449 Broadway, N.Y.
The Stevens expedition, following the Lewis & Clark Trail, arrived at Fort Owens on September 28, 1853. Territorial Governor Isaac Ingle Stevens wrote: "I would earnestly urge all persons desirous to know the minute details of the topography of this valley to study carefully the narrative of Lewis and Clark; for to us it was a matter of the greatest gratification, with their narrative in hand, to pass through this valley and realize the fidelity and the graphic character of their descriptions." Published in "Reports of Explorations and Surveys to Ascertain the Most Practicable and Economical Route for a Railroad from the Mississippi River to the Pacific Ocean." Made under the direction of the Secretary of War in 1853-5. Volume XII, Book I. Washington: Thomas H. Ford, Printer 1860. Illustrated by John Mix Stanley.
 
 
Isaac Ingalls Stevens

 

Honorable Isaac Ingalls Stevens. First Governor of he newly created Washington Territory which included Washington, Idaho, parts of Montana and Nebraska. Circa 1855-1860. Courtesy Library of Congress.

 

General Isaac Ingalls Stevens.
Photographed March 1862 in Beaufort, S.C. by Timothy H. O'Sullivan shortly before his death. Courtesy Library of Congress.

 

 
Rookery Building 1905 (S.113)
By 1904, W. I. Moody was General Manager of the Muncie Works, producing Iron and Steel as well as operating Natural Gas Wells. Their offices were in the Rookery Building in Chicago. Wright remodeled the Rookery in 1905 (S.113).
 
 
Locating Bitter Root Inn Site
Detail of the Site plan laid out in 1909 by Frank Lloyd Wright, which included topographic measurements. Courtesy of The Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation.
 
Detail of the Site plan laid out in 1909 by Frank Lloyd Wright, with enhanced topographic labeling added by Douglas Steiner.
 
Detail of the USGS topographic map 2009. Enhanced topographic labeling added by Douglas Steiner. John Stroud indicated that some excavation has taken place on the hillside over the years. Courtesy of the USGS.
 
Detail of the Site plan laid out in 1909 by Frank Lloyd Wright, overlaid with 2009 topographic map (red). John Stroud indicated that some excavation has taken place, which may account for variations between 1909 and 2009, but give a clear indication as to where the Inn was located.
 
Aerial view of the site in 2009. Courtesy of DigitalGlobe, GeoEye.
 
 
Site Plan for the Town of Bitter Root
Wright's first site plan for the Town of Bitter Root included a Hotel, top center, with a planted pedestrian boulevard that ran westerly from the hotel through the middle of town. Running North and South through the middle of town was the rail line which Wright envisioned as a Subway, with a station in the center. Wright included a School and Library, top left corner of town, the Administration Offices lower left of town and a Theater, bottom center. The Hospital was just to the right, and the Light and Power Company was on the far right. The buildings in town were designed with open center courts. The Fire Department, Telegraph Office and other services were dispersed in these buildings throughout the town. This first site plan for the Town of Bitter Root was rejected and Wright proposal s a scaled down version he called the Village of Bitter Root. Courtesy of The Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation.
 
This detail includes the Hotel, top center, with a planted pedestrian boulevard that ran westerly from the hotel through the middle of town. Running North and South through the middle of town was the rail line which Wright envisioned as a Subway, with a station in the center. Wright included a School and Library, seen on the left. The buildings in town were designed with open center courts. The Fire Department, Telegraph Office and other services were dispersed in these buildings throughout the town.
 
The Hotel Wright proposed for the Town of Bitter Root was much larger than the Inn that was finally realized. It was extensively landscaped, and included storage, stables and a garage for carriages.
 
 
 
Site Plan for the Village of Bitter Root
Wright's first site plan for the Town of Bitter Root was rejected. His second proposal was a scaled down version which he called the Village of Bitter Root. It included a Train Station on the left, Market Buildings with an open Court in the center, an Opera House and across the stream and ravine on the right, the Bitter Root Inn. The Inn was the only structure built in the Village. Courtesy of The Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation.
 
Detail of Wright's second site plan for the Village of Bitter Root. It included a Library at the top left, a Park in the center left in the Ravine and the Opera House at the bottom left. The Bridge is in the center. Note the interesting design. The Bitter Root Inn (Hotel) is in the center. At the bottom right, a School is the second building from the right and a Church on the far right.
 
Detail of Wright's second site plan for the Village of Bitter Root. The Bitter Root Inn, labeled Hotel, is in the center.
 
 
Birds-eye View of the Village of Bitter Root
Birds-eye view of Wright's proposal plan for the Village of Bitter Root. It included a Train Station on the left, Market Buildings with an open Court in the center, an Opera House and across the stream and ravine on the right, the Bitter Root Inn. The Inn was the only structure built in the Village. Courtesy of The Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation.
 
Detail of the Birds-eye view for the Village of Bitter Root. It included a Library left of center, near the top left, and the Opera House at the bottom center, the taller building. The Bridge is in the center. Note the interesting design. The Bitter Root Inn is near the top right.
 
Detail of the Birds-eye view for the Bitter Root Inn. Drawing of the Inn show that the two wings off he front of the Inn were erased, indicating that he intended to include them in the first designed.  They could have been removed to cut costs.
 
 
Original Floor Plan
The Inn was 126 feet long, two stories tall and built on a 3.5 foot grid. The first floor included a Dining Room on the north, an office in the center, a Reception Room on the South and a large Porch on either end. The wing behind the center office included a kitchen and two additional bedrooms. A open gallery ran the length of the front of the building. The second floor included 20 Bedrooms, Men’s and Women’s Baths in center and Balconies on either end. Running water and electricity included.
 
The second floor was 120 feet long and included 20 Bedrooms. The Men’s and Women’s Baths were in center and Balconies on either end and one that ran partially across the front. Running water and electricity were included. Planter boxes were in the front, to the left and right side of the balcony.
 
 Original floor plan copyright 1993, “The Frank Lloyd Wright Companion”  Storrer, William Allin, page 148. Modified by Douglas M. Steiner, copyright 2009.
 
 
Bitter Root Inn, Circa 1910
There were many classic Prairie styled Wright details in the Bitter Root Inn, a paradise in the wilderness. The basic material was wood, using board and batten siding and shingles for the roof. Strong horizontal lines, low-pitched roof, broad overhanging eaves, horizontal rows of leaded or mullion divided glass windows and glass doors, two prominent centrally located fireplaces and chimneys, balconies and porches. The Dining and Reception Rooms were designed with large semicircular fireplaces. There are built-in piers or columns that could have been designed for planters or large vases like many of his buildings at that time. The drawings for the unbuilt Office in Bitter Root did include large vases. The Inn was 126 feet long and two stories tall. The first floor included a Dining Room on the left, an office in the center, a Reception Room on the right, and a large Porch on either end. An open gallery ran the length of the front of the building. The second floor included 20 Bedrooms, Men’s and Women’s Baths, and a Balcony that runs along the front and one on either end. Running water and electricity included.
 
Detail shows many of the Wright details in the Bitter Root Inn: Board and batten siding; Rows of leaded or mullion divided glass windows and glass doors. The person standing in front of the stairs shows the size relationship of the pedestals on either side of the stairs.
 
 
Bitter Root Inn, Circa 1915
The Porch has been enclosed on the end of the first floor. A fence has enclosed the yard, flowers planted and plants added to the pedestals on either side of the stairs. Original fireplug can be seen on the left, just to the right of the pole on the left.
 
 
View from the Bitter Root Inn, Postcard Circa 1915
"Looking Toward Stevensville From Bitter Root Inn. Bitter Root Valley Irrigation Company, First National Bank Building, Chicago."
 
 
Photographs of the Original Site for the Bitter Root Inn, September 2009
One of the goals of our detour through the beautiful Bitterroot Valley this past summer was to locate the original site of the Bitter Root Inn. In preparation for our trip I contacted John Stroud, an author and local historian, born, raised and living in the Stevensville area of the Bitterroot Valley. I met John in town at the local Drug Store, purchased his book and had the opportunity to   spend time getting acquainted with the area, stopping to see the historic St. Mary’s Mission and listening to some of the local stories, then headed out to locate the site of the Bitter Root Inn.
      Unlike the "cold inhospitable place" discovered by Lewis and Clark in September 1805, just a little over two hundred years, I found the Bitterroot valley beautiful and inviting (continued...)
     
Text and Photographs by Douglas M. Steiner, Copyright 2009
 
 
 
Additional Biographical Information and Reading
     
  The Iron and Steel Works of The United States, 1904
Compiled and Published by The American Iron & Steel Association, Philadelphia, PA. Sixteenth Edition, Printed by Allen, Lane & Scott, Philadelphia
Includes information concerning W. I. Moody, General Manager of the Muncie Works, American Rolling Mill Corporation, with offices in the Rookery Building (S.113), Chicago, Ill. Moody was involved in financing and promoting the Como Orchard Summer Colony, University Heights (S.144) and the Bitter Root Inn (S.145).
Pp 468
     
  Overland Monthly - January 1909
Published monthly by The Overland Monthly Company, San Francisco, CA and Butte, Montana
By George M. Teale
"The Bitter Root Valley." Description and information on the Bitter Root Valley. Includes 22 photographs. Includes information on the Bitter Root Valley Irrigation Co. and W.I. Moody. "...and some day the inhabitants will look back to these days and bless the day that the B. R. V. I. Co. was organized." Moody was involved in financing and promoting the Como Orchard Summer Colony, University Heights (S.144) and the Bitter Root Inn (S.145).
     
  The Pacific Reporter, Volume 171 - 1918
Published by West Publishing Co., St. Paul.
"Como Orchard Land Co. v. Markham." Pages 274-276. 6.25 x 10.
Relates to the Como Orchard Summer Colony, University Heights (S.144) and the Bitter Root Inn (S.145).
Pp 1183
     
     
  National Register of Historic Places, Hamilton, Montana. 1988
Published by the United States Department of the Interior, National Park Service, Washington D.C.
Michels, Kirk
History of Hamilton, Montana and the surrounding area. Includes historical information on the Big Ditch Development, the Bitterroot District Irrigation Co., and the two planned communities designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, which included "University Heights near Darby and the town of Bitterroot near Corvallis."
Pp 21
     
  National Register of Historic Places, Stevensville, Montana. 1991
Published by the United States Department of the Interior, National Park Service Washington D.C.
Montana State Historical Preservation Office Staff
Multiple Property Documentation Form. History of Stevensville, Montana and the surrounding area. Includes historical information on the "Apple Boom", the Big Ditch Development and the Bitterroot District Irrigation Co. "The new townsite of Bitterroot was platted just north of Stevensville, and the Bitterroot Inn, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, was built in 1920 and served as an informal headquarters for the Chicago-based land developers and investors."
Pp 30
     
  Bitter Root Project  1991
Bridges, Kelly
"Thousands of acres of newly irrigable land were purchased by newcomers. These newly settled lands became the subdivisions of East Side Addition, Hamilton Heights, ... and University Heights. Each of these divisions saw the construction of golf courses and large inns. Additionally, many of these divisions planted acres of McIntosh Apple orchards. Intense advertising to attract even more people to these lands occurred, boasting that land selling from $200 to $300 per acre could earn net returns of $5000 for each ten acre plot.
Pp 13
     
  Twice a Mail Order Bride, The Story of Grandma Rush, 2006
Published by Stoneydale Press Publishing Company, Stevensville, MT
Stroud, John
"This Local History also touches on.. the connection of the Apple Boom to the Bitter Root Inn designed by Frank Lloyd Wright; as well as the irrigation from Lake Como south of Hamilton. Lake Como was named by Father Antonio Ravalli after a lake very similar to this in the Alps of his native Italy." (Publishers description.) Includes information and three images of the Bitter Root Inn designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.
Pp 104
 
 
Related Books
"The Iron and Steel Works of The United States" 1904, Pp 468.
"In The Nature of Materials, The Buildings of Frank Lloyd Wright 1887 - 1941", 1942, Hitchcock, Pp 55.
"The Prairie School Tradition. The Prairie Archives of the Milwaukee Art Center." 1985, Spencer, P 72.
"National Register of Historic Places, Hamilton, Montana" 1988, Kirk, Pp 21.
"Frank Lloyd Wright Monograph 1907-1913", Text: Pfeiffer, Bruce Brooks;
Edited and Photographed: Futagawa, Yukio, 1991, pages 94-100.
"National Register of Historic Places, Stevensville, Montana" 1991, Pp 30.
The Frank Lloyd Wright Companion”, Storrer, 1993, Pp 148.
"Frank Lloyd Wright: Architect", Riley, Reed, Alofsin, Cronon, Frampton, Wright, 1994, Pp 63, 91, 96, 106, 324-328.
"Frank Lloyd Wright and the Meaning of Material", Patterson, 1994, p 28.
"Lost Wright", Lind, 1996, Pp 112-113.
"Frank Lloyd Wright", McCarter, 1999, Pp 237-239
"Frank Lloyd Wright - Field Guide, Volume 3, West", Heinz, 1999, Pp 65.
"Frank Lloyd Wright: The Western Work", Legler, 1999, Pp 14-17.
"Wrightscapes. Frank Lloyd Wright's Landscape Designs", Aguar, 2002, Pp 133-138.
"Twice a Mail Order Bride, The Story of Grandma Rush" Stroud, 2006, Pp 104.
 
 
Related Images and Articles
(Note, due to the fact that the internet is constantly changing, and items that
are posted change, I have copied the text, but give all the credits available.)
Overland Monthly - January 1909, Teale, "The Bitter Root Valley." Pp 59-69.
Frank Lloyd Wright Newsletter - Second Qtr 1982 V5#2, Ludwig, "Wright in the Bitter Root Valley of Montana" Pp 6-16.
 
 
 
 
Additional Wright Studies
  Adelman (S.344)    Banff National Park Pavilion (S.170)    Bitter Root Inn (S.145)    Blair Residence (S.351)    Blumberg Residence (Project) 
 
Boomer Residence (1953 - S.361)    Brandes Residence (S.350)    Browne's Bookstore (S.141)    Como Orchard Summer Colony (S.144)  
 
Cooke Residence (1953)    Copper Weed Urn & Weed Holder   
Disappearing City (1932)    Elam Residence (S.336)    "Eve of St. Agnes" (1896)  
 
Feiman Residence (S.371)    Frank L. Smith Bank (S.111)    Gordon Residence (S.419)   
Griggs Residence (S.290)    Hartford Resort (Project 1948) 
  Heller Residence (S.038)   
Henderson Residence (S.057)   
Hoffman Showroom (S.380)    Horner Residence (S.142)    "House Beautiful" 1896-98  
  Husser Residence (S.046)    Imperial Hotel (S.194) Silverware and Monogram    Japanese Print Stand (1908)    Kalil Residence (S.387)  
 
Lake Geneva Hotel (S.171)
   Lamp Cottage, Rocky Roost (S.021)    Lockridge Medical Clinic (S.425)    Lykes Residence (S.433)  
 
Marden Residence (S.357)    March Balloons    Midway Gardens (S.180)    Midway Gardens Dish (S.180)    Nakoma Clubhouse  
 
Nakoma Furniture    Opus 497    Pebbles & Balch Remodel (S.131)    Pilgrim Congregational Church (S.431) 
Loren B. Pope (S.268) 
  
Roloson Rowhouse (S.026)    Shavin Residence (S.339)    Sixty Years Exhibition 1951-56    J. L. Smith Residence (1955)    Steffens Residence (S.153)  
  Stohr Arcade (S.162)    Stromquiest Residence (S.429)    Sutton Residence (S.106)    Teater Studio (S.352)    Thurber Art Galleries (S.154)  
  Tracy Residence (S.389)    Trier Residence (S.398)    Usonian Automatic Homes    Williams (Way & Williams) (S.033)  
 
Wyoming Valley School (S.401)   
Zimmerman Residence, (S.333) 
 
Frank Lloyd Wright's First Published Article (1898)
 
Photographic Chronology of Frank Lloyd Wright Portraits
 
"Frank Lloyd Wright's Nakoma Clubhouse & Sculptures." A comprehensive study of Wright’s Nakoma Clubhouse and the Nakoma and Nakomis Sculptures. Now Available. Limited Edition. More information.
 
 
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