With the start of autumn semester, University of Montana students in an Archaeological Survey class began conducting research on the underground features that were once part of Missoula’s historic downtown landscape. The project is called “Underground Missoula.”
Taught by UM anthropology Associate Professor Kelly Dixon, the class of 15 students has teamed up with Philip Maechling of the Missoula Historic Preservation Commission to document, photograph and catalog any
information pertaining to Missoula’s historic underground.
Maechling said there is mix of urban myth and fact about the various vaults and tunnels used by people needing to work in these underground spaces
“Opium dens, Chinese tunnels, brothels, steam tunnels, the ‘John Wayne’ tunnel, laundry and money running, speakeasies – all of these are stories about the downtown underground,” Maechling said. “This project is
exploring the underbelly of some notable buildings on Higgins and Front streets in Missoula’s Downtown Historic District. We’ll see what is myth and what may be true. So if you have maps, photographs or stories about Missoula’s tunnels, please let us know.”
Students are working closely with UM’s Maureen and Mike Mansfield Library faculty, including Archivist Donna McCrea and Government Documents Librarian Susanne Caro, to locate historical maps, photos and other records that will help Dixon and the students piece together the facts, folklore and general story of activities that took place beneath the bustling streets of historic Missoula.
Anyone with relevant information to contribute to the project should contact UM anthropology graduate student Nikki Manning at 978-684-2341 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Any information will be greatly appreciated by the students participating in this project.
PHOTO CAPTION: Mary Bobbitt, a UM anthropology graduate student, peers down into the basement of the Missoula Mercantile building during a tour on Sept. 26.