Walking Tour Spotlight – Gracious Gables!

Posted: June 26, 2019 by extremehistory in Uncategorized

Travel back in time on Willson Avenue!

The Extreme History Project’s Gracious Gables walking tour, which explores Bozeman’s Bon Ton Historic District, offers more than a lesson in architecture. Much more. Spend an hour on a Sunday afternoon and come away with a deeper appreciation of the events and people who first saw opportunity in the beautiful Gallatin valley.

The Bon Ton District was Bozeman’s most fashionable neighborhood between 1880 and 1930. Men who came west for gold or to make a new life after the Civil War made fortunes in real estate, banking, beef, retail and politics. When W.W. Alderson platted his homestead south of Main Street, he planned for Central Avenue (now Willson) to be a grand boulevard, with beautiful houses on either side. That’s why the neighborhood is known as the Bon Ton District, which in the 19th Century meant “the finest.” Over the years doctors, bankers, politicians, college presidents and several sons of the city’s original founders lived here.

319 S Willson Voss BandB

The Chisholm Family on Porch of Residence in Bozeman, Montana. Left to right, back row: Oliver Perry Chisholm (1843-1912), Sarah Alice Chisholm, Sarah Jane Bishop Chisholm (1846-1905); front row, left to right: Charles B. Chisholm (1874-1945), Oliver Perry Chisholm, II (1883-1967). House is located at 319 S. Willson. Photograph Courtesy of the Museum of the Rockies

Their homes reflected their wealth and status. Although the district is predominately Queen Anne or Colonial Revival, home owners often combined styles to make their homes unique. From the highly ornamented, pink Queen Anne home built by Bozeman’s first sheriff to the simplicity of the townhouse designed by local architect Fred Willson for the founder of the Flying D Ranch, no two houses are similar.

The stories of the residents are as impressive as the homes. These people were doers who founded businesses and touched lives in ways that are still relevant today. Kindness? Think about Julia Martin who served Thanksgiving dinner to the “loose women” at Montana College for over 37 years. Politics? Consider the political career of Nelson Story Junior, son of Bozeman’s first millionaire or Belle McDonald, daughter of former slaves, who lobbied the state legislature while working as a live-in domestic.

Julia Martin House

Julia Martin House. Photograph Courtesy of the Museum of the Rockies

These are just a few remarkable stories housed in the Bon Ton District. Theirs were lives of visible success and painful loss. Take a tour to learn more about those who had significant influence on Bozeman and Montana in its early years.

For tour dates and times and to register click here!

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