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Havre Beneath The Streets

In the late 19th century, when the Great Northern Railway laid down its line between Seattle and Minneapolis, a distance of more than 1,600 miles, the need for a midway station was felt. Consequently, the town of Havre was created in Montana to service the railroad and its passengers. Being located more or less midway down the Hi-Line, Havre became a popular stop for travelers, especially since it is only about 3 hours away from Glacier National Park. Almost overnight, Havre became the business and retail hub of the area.

In January 1904 a devastating fire wiped out a large part of Havre’s business area. Scarcity of building materials delayed rebuilding efforts and businesses grew impatient of waiting. Eventually, some of them decided to open shop in the steam tunnels that ran under the city, until the town could be rebuilt above ground. This underground area, now called "Havre Beneath the Streets", is sometimes referred to as one of the first shopping malls in America.

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Photo credit: www.visitmt.com

While new brick buildings in the town were being laid, Havre's business district under the streets flourished. Many respectable businesses were operating out of the tunnels at that time, including the town’s bank, funeral parlor and drugstore. Once the new buildings were ready, the citizens moved back up again, and their claustrophobic space underground were taken by businesses of the shadier variety —opium dens, a brothel and rooms where alcohol could be bought and consumed illegally during Prohibition.

The tunnels also became home to the Chinese population who worked for the railway. Faced with constant racial harassment, these people retread to the refugee of the tunnels.

In the 1990's, the Havre Chamber of Commerce restored a portion of the tunnels and reopened them as a tourist attraction. The tour goes through several rooms that have been furnished with antiques and life-sized mannequins, while a knowledgeable tour guide describes the uses of the various rooms.

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Photo credit: www.visitmt.com

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A Chinese laundromat. Photo credit: www.visitmt.com

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The brothel. Photo credit: Chauncey Long/Flickr

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Another view of the brothel. Photo credit: Holly Scheuren/Flickr

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Photo credit: Holly Scheuren/Flickr

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Photo credit: Michael Dunn/Flickr

Sources: Roadside America / Wikipedia / Ultimate Montana

1 comment:

  1. The worldly wonders never cease. Thank you!

    ReplyDelete

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