Havre Beneath the Streets
Probably one of the most popular attractions in northcentral Montana, is the historical tour through Havre’s underground. In January of 1904 a devastating fire wiped out a large part of the Havre business. A shortage of building materials made it difficult to rebuild immediately, so the businesses moved their stores to the steam tunnels running under the city until their buildings could be replaced above ground. This created what was probably one of the first shopping malls in the country.
When prohibition ended, so did the use of the tunnels. Over time the underground was largely forgotten. But talk of the passages below the streets was common among Havre’s older residents, and more than one schoolboy yearned to explore the mysteries of the passages. Frank DeRosa, Lyle Watson, and a group of Havre residents and history buffs decided to explore for themselves the stories of businesses and bootleggers using the underground. What they discovered was not just a bootlegging past, but a whole world of businesses and history that had largely been forgotten. They formed the Havre Beneath the Streets Committee and began the restoration.
The project took over four years to bring the project to fruition. Easements needed to be obtained, garbage and rubble needed to be removed, hallways needed to be created, old plumbing and electrical wiring had to be moved or removed. The highway through town had already destroyed a part of the area. In all, the community effort took countless hours to complete. But complete it they did. Since it opened in 1994 over 80,000 people have taken the tour.
Today it is one of the finest museums of Montana history anywhere. The one hour tour will take you through a post office, the Holland and Son Mercantile, Wright’s Dental Office, the Sporting Eagle Saloon, a bordello, the Bruce Clyde Dray & Tack Shop, the Casady Blacksmith Shop, a sausage shop, the Pioneer Meat Market, C.W. “Shorty” Young’s Office and Game Room, the Gourly Brothers Bakery, Tamale Jim’s, Boones Drug Store, Wah Sing Laundry, an opium den, and the Fountain Barber Shop. Two new exhibits just opened include a motor service garage and Studebaker dealership and the old Havre Herald.
The museum is open daily in the summer from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Winter hours are Monday through Saturday from noon to 5 p.m. An admission fee is charged. Tours start at the Havre Railroad Museum at 120 3rd Ave., Havre. 265-8888