Sometimes you check into a place and it just makes you smile over and over. Then you walk outside and say, “What a nice town!” I think my reaction was what most guests feel when they check into the Broadway Hotel facing the main drag in Philipsburg, Montana.
The building dates back to 1890, when Philipsburg was a booming mining town. At that point prospectors had found gold, silver, and manganese around the area, then two years later a big sapphire discovery led to a new kind of riches. Eventually, most of the minerals and gems got tapped out though and all that was left was smelting, logging, and a sawmill. When those operations closed down too, few jobs were left. The city began a downward spiral that really hit hard for a few decades at the end of the 20th century.
Jim Jenner and Sue Mays were two of the pioneers who saw potential in Philipsburg though, in a city located between Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks, right off a main highway between Butte and Missoula. The two of them cleared out the long-abandoned second floor of the building, renovated it, and opened the hotel in 2003, before there was much else around to keep people in town. In time the bet paid off as the city storefronts filled up, investors renovated other buildings, and one of Montana’s best breweries opened around the corner on the main drag.
Now Philipsburg has enough going on to keep you hanging around for a while, with multiple restaurants, a good coffee shop, interesting shops, and one of the best candy stores in the USA. You can also go searching for sapphires and there’s a pretty good chance you’ll find one. In the summer months, there are often concerts and festivals going on where there’s an open ice rink in the winter.
The Lounge & Library space in the Broadway Hotel is quite inviting, a big skylit room in the center with board games, enough books to last you a year, and good tables for getting caught up on e-mail if needed. In the cold months you can sit by the woodstove and warm up. Hot drinks are available all day complimentary in the nearby kitchen.
In the morning that communal space transitions into the continental breakfast area, with baked goods, fruit, and excellent coffee or tea.
Every room at this hotel is quite different, with lots of personality in each one. We stayed in the Las Palomas honeymoon room, which with “the doves” as its mascots, has a love theme going on. It has a whirlpool built for two, a double shower head, and a comfy king-sized bed.
The other rooms and suites are whimsical and fun, most with some kind of reference to Montana now or in the past. There’s a Sportsmen’s Suite with mounted animal head trophies and fishing gear in the bedroom, sports jerseys and memorabilia in the living room. A Hard Rock Room is a tribute to the area’s mining history, with historic maps and a real rock pick mounted on the headboard. The Crosscut Room is a tribute to the other big industry here last century: lumber. It is decorated with hand saws and a giant sawmill blade.
Wannabe cowboys should go for the Wrangler Room, which is stocked with cowboy hats, cowboy movie posters, and western lamps. The Route 66 Suite is a tribute to the golden age of the automobile and the famous cross-country road that preceded the interstate highway system. This one has a fold-out bed in the living room for an extra guest or child.
Standard amenities include WiFi, a TV with DVD player, and alarm clock, while bathrooms are stocked with standard toiletries and hair dryers.
The Broadway Hotel has nine rooms in the hotel itself, plus two apartments in a separate building. Rates for the regular rooms include the continental breakfast, while the apartments have their own kitchen. Rates start at $85 for the smallest room, but it’s worth upgrading to one of the suites if you’re staying for more than one night. Free parking is available near the entrance and some rooms are pet-friendly.
If you’re looking for a boring, predictable hotel where every room is the same, this is not your place. It’s for intrepid travelers who delight in a sense of personality, in a town that has plenty more–with no chain restaurants to be found.
It’s best to book direct with the hotel since the rooms are very different here and the staffers know them inside-out. If you want some additional confirmation before booking, you can see their glowing reviews on Tripadvisor.
Review and photos by editor Tim Leffel, who was hosted by the property for one night while researching Montana articles for another publication. See one of them here: Mining the Past in Southwest Montana. See more on the area at the regional tourism site for this part of the state.