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Restoration of downtown Missoula building to reveal historic 1930s design

Hammond Arcade Building
Hammond Arcade Fire
Union Block Renovations
Hammond Arcade Building 1970s
Posted at 1:19 PM, Jan 04, 2023
and last updated 2023-01-04 15:19:27-05

MISSOULA - Another vintage building in downtown Missoula is set for a makeover, one intended to reveal its historic features and bring back its early 20th-century charm.

The Hammond-Arcade Building, located at 101 S. Higgins Avenue, remains a one-story building constructed in the Art Deco style in 1934.

It's highly visible given its placement near The Wilma on the corner of Front Street and Higgins. But its original character and true features have been altered over the years by various maintenance projects.

Now, property owner Nick Caras plans to change that.

“While much of the historic integrity of the Hammond-Arcade remains, minor renovations and deferred maintenance throughout the years has led to the slow degradation of the building's original luster,” Caras said. “With these improvements, the building will be one step closer to its original design and another step closer to being more accessible and approachable to Missoula's downtown community.”

Hammond Arcade Fire
A fire in the early 1930s destroyed the 19th-century building that occupied the corner of Front Street and Higgins Avenue.

The building is located on the National Register of Historic Places and was constructed in 1934 after a fire destroyed the original building, which stood several stories tall on the corner lot.

Designed by R. C. Hugenin, the current structure represents what Caras described as “a fine example of commercial art deco architecture, which is one of the reasons for its historic significance.”

It was also constructed during the Great Depression. After the loss of the former building to fire, the Hammond Building Co. planned to replace the structure with a two-story building, though financial constraints didn't allow it.

Still, the construction of the new one-story building provided needed jobs to local workers.

“Also notable on the historic listing is the construction of the Hammond-Arcade during the Great Depression era, an otherwise quiet time for commercial building in Missoula,” Caras said.

Caras, who took on the challenge of restoring Missoula's Radio Central building two blocks away, has expressed a fondness for Missoula's historic architecture. During the restoration project, the Radio Central Building was identified on city maps dating back to 1893 as the Union Block.

Union Block Renovations
Restoration of the Union Block revealed historic features dating back to the 1890s.

Constructed by C.P. Higgins, the Union Block's Queen Anne architecture — including large granite blocks, gables, columns and solid masonry — had been hidden for decades behind bland steel siding. At a cost of several million dollars, Caras and a team at DVG Architecture and Planning restored the building to its former look.

Caras hopes to achieve a similar outcome at the Hammond-Arcade. Renovations will occur both inside and out and focus largely on restoring the structure's glazing to resemble the period in which it was built.

“The glazing above the awning is only visible from the street, and much of the original is boarded over,” Caras said. “The intent is to restore this glazing to its original condition … refreshing the look from the street as well as allowing natural light back into the building.”

The building has played a significant retail role over the past 90 years. More recent Missoula residents will remember such tenants as El Cazador, an off-and-on art studio, and a host of small retailers. Older residents may remember the Missoula Drug Company.

Hammond Arcade Building 1970s
The Hammond Arcade building as seen in the 1970s.

As such, Caras said the building earned a reputation as a commercial hub. Once restored, it will add to downtown Missoula's rich blend of historic and modern architecture.

“Our intent is to highlight this prominent intersection in Missoula's downtown and install full length, bi-fold doors along the already altered northeast corner,” Caras said. “Our ultimate goal is to restore and highlight the major character-defining features while adapting the building for modern commerce, accessibility and efficiency.”