The western USA looked a lot different in 1885 when the Mercantile Exchange sat on the block where the Residence Inn by Marriott Missoula Downtown is located now. It was a large store, yes, but it was also a supply center. Goods flowed out from here in covered wagons to towns throughout the region to restock them with food, tools, and other goods.
The building served several other purposes over the years, but eventually fell into disrepair and was abandoned in 2007. It sat empty for a decade and although there was a strong local desire to save it, no developer felt it was possible given the structural decay. So the Missoula Residence Inn on this site is a new structure, albeit with an admirable number of pieces saved from the old structure incorporated into the design.
An old radiator is now a bench, the original awning is inside one entrance, with vintage metal speakers playing street sounds from an era decades ago. There’s an interesting American flag on the wall that was found in the original building. It’s odd because it has 44 stars: that number was only valid for a few months. One corner of the original building was salvaged: what was once the pharmacy houses a restaurant with an outside entrance on the ground floor, while the upstairs is the Presidential Suite with original windows. The bricks behind the reception desks are original, as are some beams throughout the property and the tin ceiling over the bar.
The art work throughout the hotel is a well-curated mix of photos highlighting items from the original Mercantile building, as well as original art commissioned for the opening. The photos are interior shots dating back to the early days of photography, as well as pre-demolition shots of old medicine bottles, furniture, shoes, and other dusty inventory. One shows a fly tying table where workers used to assemble fly fishing lures.
The art pieces are worth stopping to ponder, like a collection of books all open to passages about the local region. Another is a bighorn sheep made out of machinery. All have some tie in to the local area or the state of Montana.
The 175 rooms come in Studio, Executive, and One-Bedroom Suite versions, with that last category having a separate living room with a door. There’s also a “Larger Suite” that’s nearly 1,000 square feet. This being a Residence Inn, rooms come with a kitchen that has a fridge, stove top, microwave, coffee maker, and even a dishwasher. The kitchen is stocked with dishes and utensils.
All rooms have a nice sitting area, large TV, bedside tables with reading lights, coffee maker, and work desk. Since this property just opened in 2019, you won’t have to crawl around to find an outlet for your laptop and gadgets. Baths are rather utilitarian, but are stocked with what you need, including Tea Tree shampoo, conditioner, and body wash in eco-friendly refillable glass containers. Historic Missoula prints on the wall provide some sense of place relief from the catalog furniture and neutral chain hotel decor.
I got to have dinner at the impressive 1889 Restaurant on site, named after the year that Montana officially became a state. They serve an array of fun cocktails, a good selection of Montana craft beers, and have wines by the glass to get you started. While the menu is heavy on local beef, with five cuts to choose from, you can also order seafood, a pork chop, or a bison burger. With floor-to-ceiling windows on two sides, it’s an inviting space that’s popular for after-work meetings or special occasion celebrations. You definitely want to save room for dessert; this was our Paradise Peach Cobbler and Spiced Carrot Cake with cream cheese frosting, walnut lace cookie, and bourbon carrot caramel.
The Residence Inn by Marriott Missoula Downtown is in a great location for walking and biking. I walked to three different brewpubs one day and the next morning we took a stroll by the river and saw the gorgeous carousel that you can ride. There’s an outdoor deck at the hotel where you can play corn hole or have a drink in the warm months. At night they have some fire pits. All year there’s an indoor pool and a fitness center. A spa was under construction during my visit and should be ready by the time you’re going to stay.
This is not a hotel where you’re limited to one or two restaurants and drinking spots either. In the same building are a Thai restaurant, a “cocktails and crafts” center, and Basal, a fast casual salads and sandwiches place. Across the street is a gourmet deli and you’re a few blocks from a barbecue joint with my favorite name ever: The Notorious P.I.G.