Saturday, November 28, 2009

Downtown Missoula ...

There's something very cool about nighttime photos of small-town Main Streets, especially from the age of neon. Here's a cool one of Missoula, probably from an old postcard. This is looking north along Higgins Avenue from the bridge over the Clark Fork River, showing the heart of the commercial district and a a couple of the city's landmark buildings: the great old Wilma Theatre and the Florence Hotel. Based on the name of the movie playing at the Wilma, the photo was taken in 1965.

Missoula still has one of the state's most interesting downtowns, and both the Wilma and the Florence are still there. The Florence has been turned into office space, though, and the Wilma's current marquee is pretty ugly, far less cool than this one. But at least they still show movies there ...


  1. Weren't those neon signs the greatest? The Wilma is so elaborate and elegant in this picture. There's just something sort of magical in them, in the town dark. Miles City still has a couple neon signs, my favorite being the Bison.
    Why, do you suppose, did they fall out of vogue?I'd love it if they made a big comeback!

  2. Yep, I love old neon signs with a passion! I suppose they fell out of vogue for a variety of reasons: the new backlit plastic signs are cheaper and easier to maintain; you can't really change the message of a neon sign too well; and I think some cities set up zoning regulations to discourage them. (That's changing a bit, though, as people are starting to recognize the beauty of neon again.)

    The current marquee at the Wilma is supposedly a partial replica of an older marquee there, but it's also got this new electric signboard that just makes it really ugly. For my money, the sign in this picture is the one they should have!

    And the Bison Bar, you say? Have you seen this post? :)