18 January 2008

Shooting Fort Benton: The Early Photographers

By Ken Robison

[This article was published in the Fort Benton River Press 31 May 2006, and revised and updated in April 2008. The original article accompanied an Exhibition at the entrance to the Museum of the Northern Plains during the summer of 2006 and an Exhibition in the Great Falls Public Library during May-June 2007]

The magical setting of Fort Benton begs to be photographed—the grandeur of the mighty Missouri River, the broad river bottom, the rising bluffs. Yet we’ve never seen the first photograph taken of Fort Benton.

Almost certainly, that first photo was a daguerreotype taken by John Mix Stanley in 1853. Stanley brought a camera when he accompanied the Isaac Stevens Railway Survey Expedition to Fort Benton in 1853, and he took the first photographs of the Rocky Mountains. Stanley left photographs, lithographic illustrations, and paintings from that pathbreaking trip. Regrettably, Stanley’s photographs no longer exist, probably burned in the same Smithsonian fire that destroyed many of his oil paintings. John Mix Stanley’s lithograph is the first visual image we have of Fort Benton. That illustration of old Fort Benton and Stanley’s grand oil painting of Fort Benton founder, Alexander Culbertson, are now on display in the Hornaday Room at the Museum of the Northern Plains in Fort Benton.

Other early traveling artists came to the Upper Missouri bringing along cameras. Talented artist Karl Wimar brought a camera on his trips in 1858-59, although none of his photos are known to exist. In 1860, J. D. Hutton accompanied Captain William F. Raynolds on a topographic exploration of the Upper Missouri. Hutton’s amazing photograph of Fort Benton from across the river taken between 15 and 22 July 1860 is the earliest known surviving photograph of the old American Fur Company post. This important photograph is on display this summer at the entrance to the Museum of the Northern Plains as part of a new photographic display from the archives of the Overholser Historical Research Center. This exhibition focuses mostly on early professional photographers who resided in Fort Benton rather than the travelers.

Charles Bucknum, an army man with a camera, spent the summer of 1868 at Fort Benton, apparently with a detachment of the 13th Infantry Regiment. A Bucknum photograph of the old Fort is on display this summer. Charles R. Savage, the famed Mormon photographer based at Salt Lake City, came north to Montana Territory in the summer of 1868. In early August 1868, Savage visited Fort Benton and two of his exceptional carte-de-viste are on display. His photograph of the steamboat Success is the first known photo of a steamboat at the Fort Benton levee.

The earliest known “resident” photographer in Fort Benton was Washington W. Parker who spent the summer of 1877 in Fort Benton. Through his photographic advertisement in the Benton Record, we know of his presence, although we have no photos taken by him. In August 1877, Parker moved north to Fort Macleod. In the U.S. Census of June 1880, Parker was living and working with Edgar Train in Helena. Parker was born in New York about 1844. He returned to Fort Benton briefly in August 1880, but by October had moved on.

Traveling photographers came up the Missouri by steamboat to Fort Benton in the 1870s including Yankton-based Stanley J. Morrow in 1873 and wandering photographer William Edward (W. E.) Hook in 1878, 1879, and 1880. Hook later gained fame as the Pikes Peak photographer with a studio in Manitou Springs.

Two photographers arrived at Fort Benton in the spring of 1880 and spent the summer here. William Culver, who later gained fame as the premier photographer of Lewistown, came to Fort Benton. While his photographic equipment was being shipped up the Missouri River, Culver became partners with George Anderton in a photographic tent studio in Fort Benton. By the fall of 1880, Culver moved on to the new army post at Fort Assiniboine. We know of no Culver photos of Fort Benton during 1880, although he took an early scene of great falls of the Missouri.

George Anderton, formerly of the North West Mounted Police and the founding father of photography in western Canada, came to Fort Benton in May 1880 from Fort Macleod. He took important photographs of the buildings and people in Fort Benton during the boom period of steamboat navigation. One exceptional Anderton photo in our collection shows the Front Street levee in 1880. The backstamp on this image reads: “Geo. Anderton, Photographer, Fort MacLeod, N. W. Ter. Canada.”

The late summer of 1880 also brought Fargo photographer F. Jay Haynes to Fort Benton. Haynes had come up the Missouri from Bismarck on the crowded steamboat Helena with reporter M. H. Jewell of the Bismarck Tribune and 261 civilian contract workers enroute to Fort Assiniboine. At Coal Banks, Haynes, the reporter, and the workers, left the Helena to go overland to Fort Assiniboine. Over the next several weeks, Haynes took photography of the construction of the fort and the falls of the Missouri before arriving in Fort Benton. Inexplicably, Haynes took only four known photos at Fort Benton, before departing by mackinaw to return to Dakota. On the way down the Missouri, he took dozens of photos of the white cliff features, the river, and cloud formations.

Justus Fey, a German immigrant, came to Fort Benton in October 1881 from Deadwood City, Dakota Territory. Opening the City Gallery on Main Street, Fey immediately began recording the building boon that was underway. Don and Kathy Lutke used Fey’s photograph of the Pacific Hotel, taken in late 1882, as a guide in their restoration of the famed hotel. Among many other important photos, Justus Fey took an exceptional photograph of the steamboat Josephine on its arrival at the Fort Benton levee on 3 May 1882. Fey was a wandering man, and by 1883, he had equipped a wagon to use as a traveling photographic gallery. Over the next five years, until his death in Helena in 1888, Fey roamed moved through the Sun River valley, Great Falls, Butte, Marysville and Helena taking photographs of people and places.

On 27 June 1882, Simon Duffin and his wife arrived in Fort Benton from Winnipeg on the steamboat Butte. By December, Duffin opened a photographic gallery on Main Street opposite the I. G. Baker store. He gave half of his building to the city for a library. The Duffins remained in Fort Benton just one year, departing in the fall of 1883 for the States and eventual return to Winnipeg. Only a handful of Duffin photos are in our collection, and all of them are portraits signed "S. Duffin.

In November 1883, Civil War veteran and wandering miner Dan Dutro bought Duffin’s gallery. Dutro had served as a drummer boy in the 150th Illinois Volunteers in the war. His health suffered from the war years, and in June 1868 he came up the Missouri River on the steamboat Andrew Ackley to the Montana frontier. Over the next decade he worked as a miner and stonecutter, until his health forced him to seek less demanding work. By the early 1880s, Dan Dutro and his family settled in Fort Benton. Over the next two decades, Dutro remained in Fort Benton, compiling an exceptional photographic record. He photographed a wide span of Fort Benton history, the river, the people, the buildings, the scenes, the Native Americans, the ranches, and mines in the area. Among our collection of Dutro photos are two “hanging” photos taken of convicted murderers before their execution. The hangings were public events, and the photos posed the doomed man with various law enforcement and legal community officials.

Toward the end of Dutro’s photographic career, young Roland Reed came to Fort Benton. He apprenticed at the Dutro studios in Fort Benton and Havre during 1896-97. In 1897, Reed went north to photograph the Alaska Gold Rush. He then went to national prominence during a long career photographing Native Americans, especially the Blackfoot Indians. Many of his photographs were published in association with the Great Northern Railroad.

John G. Showell, another wandering man, spent time in Deer Lodge and Great Falls before opening a photographic studio in Fort Benton in 1899. We first learned of his presence in Fort Benton from an ad in the 1900 Montana Brand Book. Within two years, Showell was on the move again to Hamilton, Missoula and Stevensville. We have several photographs from Showell’s time in Fort Benton including two of his daughter Lois and one of a Chinese resident of the town. Written on the back of the latter is a wonderful inscription that this man with several other resident Chinese learned English from the wife of the Methodist minister in Fort Benton. John Showell spent his later years in Utah.

A final photographer among the early residents of Fort Benton was young Walter Dean. In July 1903, Dean arrived in Fort Benton to work in D. G. Lockwood’s jewelry store as an apprentice optician. Over the next year, Dean displayed exceptional talent as a photographer. His most famous photograph was taken in September 1904 when Charles M. Russell came to Fort Benton in company with the Third Cavalry on an overland march from Fort Assiniboine to Great Falls. Walter Dean and his camera were waiting as Charlie and two Cavalry officers posed outside Joe Sullivan’s Saddlery. Our photo of Charlie and the Cavalry is hand tinted, reportedly by Dean’s friend L. A. Huffman. Thanks to the generosity of Dean’s grandson, Gordon Dean, our Research Center has a strong collection of Walter Dean’s photographs from his year in Fort Benton including many views of the Third Cavalry in encampment on the grounds of the old fort. By 1905, Dean moved on to the new eastern Montana town of Forsyth where he became a prominent booster and photographer.

Samples of the amazing work of Fort Benton’s early photographers will be on display throughout this summer at the entrance to the Museum of the Northern Plains. The exhibition is built from the broad collection of imagery and memorabilia held at the Overholser Historical Research Center. This community collection of photography belongs to the people of Fort Benton, and it will continue to grow through your generosity. If you have photographs of the town, ranches, farms, river, and people stop by the Center. If you can part with them, we will add them to the collection. If you can’t part with them, but are willing to share them with the community, we’ll scan them into our new digital photographic archives. Meanwhile enjoy the exhibition this summer when you visit the museums.


(1) First known photograph of Fort Benton taken in 1860 by H. D. Hutton. [Overholser Historical Research Center]

(2) Charles R. Savage photographed the steamboat Success at the Fort Benton levee in August 1868. [Overholser Historical Research Center]

(3) Army Scout Charles Bucknum photographed the old fur fort in 1868. [From Overholser Historical Research Center]

(4) Talented Canadian photographer, George Anderton, spent the summer of 1880 in Fort Benton. [Overholser Historical Research Center]

(5) Justus Fey photographed the steamboat Josephine at the levee in 1882. [Overholser Historical Research Center]

(6) Dan Dutro’s “hanging” photo of murderer John Osness in 1894. [Overholser Historical Research Center]

(7) Young Walter Dean’s photo of Third Cavalry Encampment at Fort Benton in 1904. [Overholser Historical Research Center]

The Classic Lobby Desk in the Grand Union Hotel

By Ken Robison

[Published in the 2 November 2007 Fort Benton River Press Grand Union Edition]

In October 11, 1882 the Fort Benton River Press reported, “W. G. Jones and his men went to work for the lessees of the new hotel [The Grand Union] yesterday morning, making tables, etc., to which proceedings Mr. Tweedy object, and was inclined to get on the warpath. As a result, the latter [Tweedy] resigned his position as superintendent [of construction] and Mr. Jones will complete the carpenter work about the hotel.” Jones and his crew built much of the interior woodwork in Fort Benton’s grandest hotel including the classic lobby desk or counter that remains in use today.

The opening of the Grand Union, November 2nd 1882, was described in The Benton Record of November 9th as “The grandest affair of its kind ever witnessed in Benton, and most probably in the Territory.” The Record reported, “The office is under the superintendance of Mr. W. H. Todd, who officiates behind one of the finest hotel counters in Montana, which was made by Messrs. Jones & Merrill, of Benton. It is 16 feet long on its longest side and then curves back six feet, and upon it is stained glass set in a frame, and an aperture through which the clerk can see all that is going on and receive payments. The entrance behind the counter is through a glass door secured by a Yale lock. The entire counter arrangement is finished by those first-class Benton painters, Messrs. Keenan & Payne, and is in imitation of both American and French walnut, mahogany, and oak veneering, beautifully done, and the counter both in its fabrication and painting reflects great credit upon Messrs. Jones & Merrill, and Keenan & Payne in their respective crafts.”

In his Master’s thesis on the Grand Union in 1971, architectural student John Ellingsen describes the lobby desk as “more elaborate than any other in Montana, including even that of the Broadwater Hotel [in Helena] or the Montana Hotel of Anaconda (both of which were build after the Grand Union). Made entirely with hand tools, it contains almost as many mouldings as the rest of the hotel put together. On a project of this type, where the joiner did not have to make several hundred feet of the same contour, he could go ‘hog-wild’ producing elaborate designs to suit his fancy.

“The top of the desk consists of two huge boards held together by a row of perfectly fitting dovetails. Above it stands the cashier’s cage, the most fantastic bit of cabinet architecture in the building. It has an arched window, wide cornices, pilaster strips, and a generous amount of polychrome wood. The cage is made of black walnut and what appears to be maple in contrasting bands. The door to the desk, another custom job, is complete with a knob that would fit nowhere better than beside this ultra-fancy desk. The solid brass knob pictures a bird cast in deer relief.”

Later, in the early summer of 1883, the July 7th River Press announced that, “W. G. Jones is building a fine porch in front of the Grand Union hotel. The improvement will add much to the appearance of the finest hotel in Montana.” By July 15th the portico was complete, and 125 years later all who enter the Grand Union pass through it.

[From: “Never a dull moment: The life of W. G. ‘Vinegar’ Jones in Fort Benton in the early 1880s Part II” by Ken Robison in The River Press February 26, 2003]


(1) Elaborate lobby desk at the Grand Union built by Jones & Merrill [Overholser Historical Research Center OHRC]

(2) Lobby desk as it looks today, 125 years later [Tim Burmeister]

(3) Illustration showing the Grand Union when it opened to the public November 2nd, 1882, with no portico present. [Benton Record OHRC]

(4) W. G. Jones built the portico for the Grand Union in July 1883 [OHRC]

The Jewel in Fort Benton’s Crown: The Grand Union

By Ken Robison

[Published in the 2 November 2007 Fort Benton River Press Grand Union Edition]

The Grand Union Hotel is both the oldest operating hotel and among the most important historic buildings in Montana. Built in 1882 at the height of the steamboat era on the Upper Missouri, the Grand Union welcomed weary travelers to spend a few nights in its luxury before they set out to less “civilized places” like Virginia City and points west. The architectural character of the Grand Union is unique with bricks carefully fitted into excellent bold decorations. Its extensive corbelling, wrought iron balconies and ornate chimneys were an impressive sight. Furnished with Victorian appointments, the dining room’s silver service, white linen and Bavarian china served the rich and famous. A ladies elegant parlor on the second floor, with a private stairway to the dining room, saved the ladies from exposure to the rowdy crowd in the saloon and poker rooms. The ornate lobby desk and broad black walnut staircase highlight the fine carpentry work throughout. No wonder that the opening ball for the Grand Union was “the grandest affair of its kind ever witnessed in Benton, and most probably in the Territory.”

The Grand Union, during its 125 years, has had many lives. It has been “the most luxurious” hotel between St. Louis and Seattle; it has been a “run-of-the-mill” hotel; it has been a “virtual flophouse” with rooms to rent for two bits; and it has suffered years of derelict closure. But today the grand old lady of Montana hotels shines brightly, restored to its golden era glory with modernity carefully folded in.

At the height of the steamboat era in 1879, William H. Todd had a dream. Fort Benton was booming with thousands of passengers and tons of freight arriving at the head of navigation on the Upper Missouri. With trails heading in every direction, Fort Benton was the transportation hub of bustling Montana territory. Todd bought Lot One, Block One, on the steamboat levee, forty-two feet of which fronted on Front Street and one hundred feet on Bond Street [now 14th].

The next year, 1880, William Todd, talked constantly about a grand hotel positioned to receive travelers as they stepped off steamboats and afford them a day or two of luxury before they departed into the frontier life. Todd convinced the optimistic businessmen of Benton that the town was a civilized and permanent community with a great future. By September 1880, a corporation was formed to raise money for The Benton Hotel Company. Within a month the contract was let to Storer and Storer to furnish locally made bricks. Cold weather arrived in November, closing out the booming building season before most of the bricks could be manufactured, and Benton went into its winter slumber.

In the spring of 1881, just as the weather warmed to permit resumption of brick-making and construction work, the brick makers dissolved their partnership and rumors began to fly that the new hotel would never be built. But W. H. Todd and his supporters were determined to press forward. In August ground was broken for the hotel with Todd in general charge of construction and Thomas Tweedy as architect and superintendent of construction. Legend has it that the hotel had no architect, rather the craftsmen simply designed it as they built. Yet, apparently the first elaborate plans were drawn up by an unknown Eastern architect, and then either downsized or ignored by Tweedy.

Plans were firmed up in August 1881 for a three-story brick hotel, 75 ft. 4 inches on Front Street by 80 feet 4 inches on Bond Street. The principal entrance was to be on Bond Street, and the ladies entrance on Front. The main entrance would lead into a lobby with a grand staircase ascending to the second floor. The dining room would front on the river, while the room at the corner of Front and Bond would serve as a saloon and billiard hall. The south room on Front Street could be rented for a barbershop. Just over one year later these plans came true.

By the end of August 1881 the granite foundation was in place and the first bricks laid with Frank Coombs, local contractor, supervising the brickwork that would eventually total a half million bricks. Tweedy insisted on best-seasoned wood for floor joists, and the project suffered delays in the supply of lumber. Meanwhile, Benton’s other hotels, the Chouteau House, the Overland, and the Centennial, were doing booming business. Building costs were escalating in the river city.

After slowing for the winter, construction on the new, yet unnamed hotel accelerated in the spring. The arrival of the steamboat Josephine on May 3rd, 1882 signaled the opening of another great year at the head of navigation. Boats began to arrive almost daily loaded with cargo for the territory and with fine furnishings for the new hotel. The steamer Helena brought carpet, stoves, and a grand piano. The Benton arrived with more carpeting, and ceiling and flooring materials. The Butte brought chairs and glassware for the new hotel. The Helena on its second trip brought walnut boards destined to be assembled into the hotel’s grand staircase.

In June plastering began, and a few days later the steamer Black Hills arrived with the doors and windows, tailor made in Auoka, Minnesota. Benton’s second trip brought sofas, settees, ladies’ desks, boxes of marble, dressers, beds and bureaus from Duluth. The hotel’s famous safe arrived in July on the Benton’s third trip from Bismarck. As the summer passed and the water level lowered, boats like the Butte had to land at Coal Banks with its cargo of seventy barrels of china destined to grace the tables in the fine dining room in the new hotel.

The name, Grand Union, was finally announced in the River Press on September 27th. The two words grand and Union, fit the post Civil War times, the “Grand Union” was the perfect name for the finest hotel in the West. In the midst of furious activity to complete construction, decorate the interior, and hire a staff, Tweedy resigned, and Whitman Gibson (W. G.) Jones, a master carpenter, was brought in to complete the carpentry work that was running behind schedule. Finally, the interior work was almost complete, and the hotel that cost about $200,000 to built and furnish was ready to open.

Bentonites got their first look inside the Grand Union Hotel on Thursday, November 2, 1882, and that evening “the grandest affair of its kind ever witnessed in Benton” was held, a grand opening ball worthy of the fine new hotel. An elaborate program unfolded over the course of the evening with dancing showing the 100 ladies in their finest. At midnight, a supper feast was served, prepared by Benton’s finest chef, young African American Alex Martin, assisted by Jerry Flowers and Samuel Jones, Reflecting the robust black community in Fort Benton at the time, the entire staff of eleven at the new hotel was African American, except two supervisors.

The ball continued with more dancing until the early hours of the morning. The Benton Record dedicated much of its next edition to the grand ball and the new hotel, in elaborate detail. The proudest man on the scene must have been W. H. Todd, who after years of dreaming and fifteen months of construction at last was standing in the lobby of the Grand Union contemplating the great future of the hotel and Fort Benton.

The first guest at the Grand Union was Alex Staveley Hill, a British capitalist and Member of Parliament. Other 90 plus guests in the 55 small rooms that first night included Hill’s brother, Fort Benton’s most prominent citizens like the Conrad family, T. E. Collins, Hans Wackerlin, W. S. Wetzel, W. S. Stockings, Paris Gibson, and prominent visitors from San Francisco, Ottawa, Pittsburgh, New York City, St. Louis, and many others. Ironically, two years later sheep farmer Paris Gibson would found the town of Great Falls at the confluence of the Missouri and Sun rivers. The arrival of railroads at Great Falls would, more than any other factor, accelerate the decline of Fort Benton and the demise of the Grand Union.

Since it was un-ladylike for a lady to walk through the men’s world of the lobby and saloon, the Grand Union had a side door. A lady would enter the hotel by that door and climb a staircase up to the woman’s parlor on the second floor. When nature called, guests would go out the back door of the hotel across a catwalk to a two-story high 16-hole outhouse.

The men’s saloon was a lively place, especially when the many cattlemen and cowboys came to town. Drinking and gambling sometimes led to the birth of legends such as the time when two cowboys bet whether one could ride his horse up the lobby staircase all the way to his room on the third floor. The bet was made, and the cowboy went out to the street to untie his horse. The cowboy led the horse through the front doors, mounted him, and made it up to the first landing before the night clerk heard the commotion and took action. The outcome of the bet was settled, when the clerk shot the rider, so goes the legend.

The dawn of the New Year, 1883, brought another boom navigation year, but the end was near for steamboating. The Utah Northern Railroad had long since opened the era of railroads in Montana, but late 1883 brought the Northern Pacific into Helena. Equally threatening, the Canadian Pacific railroad arrived in Alberta. The days of Fort Benton as transportation hub both north and south of the Medicine Line were at an end, and Fort Benton’s population plunged. Shocking evidence came in May 1884 when the Benton Hotel Company assets went at a sheriff’s sale to a banking firm—at least Benton bankers took over.

The challenge for a series of hotel men in Fort Benton over the next two decades then became how to keep the magnificent Grand Union operating and make it pay. In 1899 local businessmen J. H. Green and B. F. O’Neal bought the hotel for $10,000. Major remodeling took place about 1900, and in 1917 Mr. and Mrs. Charles Lepley took on the challenge.

While river traffic had ended, and Great Falls and Lethbridge now transportation hubs, Fort Benton sank and then began slowly coming back, riding the good years in cattle ranching and by the early 1900s the homesteading boom. Fort Benton settled into a long era as agricultural center for Montana’s golden triangle, with the good and bad that come subject to the weather and commodity prices.

During the 1930s and 40s, the Grand Union went steadily down hill. The bedrooms, once among the best in the west, gained a reputation for having a permanent insect population exceeded only by the disreputable Choteau House. Stories made the rounds about time spent at the not-so-grand Union including the following:

“I had just climbed into one of the creaking brass beds and beginning to get drowsy when I heard some weak voices singing. I couldn’t make out the words at first, but by holding my breath they came more clear. It seemed to b two men. I listened carefully in the silence:

‘Pull for the shore, boys, pull for the shore.’
Was it a ghost? A group of drowned crewmen from one of the steamboats? Again it came:
‘Pull for the shore, boys, pull for the shore.’
Though the voices were weak, they seemed to come from right under the bed. Getting my flashlight, I looked under. There in the pot were two bedbugs on a matchstick singing:
‘Pull for the shore, boys, pull for the shore.’”

Charles Lepley died in 1941 and his wife, May, took over the operation of the Grand Union until 1951 when she sold the hotel to Harold Thomas and his wife Margaretha, the legendary Superintendent of Chouteau County schools. Many of us, including this writer, have fond memories of visits with Margaretha at her suite in the Grand Union. I’d return from my overseas assignments with the U. S. Navy bearing a few sterling spoons acquired from Japan or Singapore or other ports of call and proudly present them to Margaretha to add to her dazzling collection.

By this time, little “grand” remained in the hotel in the eyes of Harold Thomas as related to Jerry Madden of the Montana Parade:
“The lobby, dining room, and saloon were ghosts of a once elegant era. Rooms were threadbare with straw mattresses sill sprawling on sagging springs. Two public bathrooms on each of the three floors were the only personal sanitary facilities. . .
One day shortly after we moved in . . . a friend of mine asked me how in the hell I ever got into this mess. The only answer I’ve been able to find is that the building offered a challenge to a restless soul and a stubborn nature.”

The one-man restoration effort of Harold Thomas likely saved the structure, which by then was on the National Register of Historic Places. Over a quarter-century, Thomas removed the colorful, but dangerous, chimneys, sealed holes, repaired cornices, painted, added structural supports, put in new plumbing and wiring, and fumigated.. In 1979 Mr. and Mrs. Thomas sold the hotel to Levee Restorations. Despite their good intentions, they could never raise the funds needed to move the hotel back into operation.

Fortunately, in 1995 the Jim and Cheryl Gagnon bought the boarded-up hotel, then owned by a contractor in Helena who ended up with the title when the previous owners couldn’t pay him for work he’d done. The Gagnons moved to Fort Benton in 1997 and on November 2, 1999, reopened the front doors after a multi-million dollar restoration. Restoring the old hotel was a labor of love for the Gagnons, and the result has been a model for keeping the best of the old while subtly adding modern amenities for today’s traveler. Masterful restoration combined with good business practices, and exceptional hard work and sacrifice have enabled Jim and Cheryl to keep the Grand Union going as the priceless jewel in Fort Benton’s crown.

Fort Benton has played a major role in every era of Montana history. Few towns in the country better present their historic past with major museums and a research center celebrating native American culture, the fur trade era, the Upper Missouri River, steamboating and overland transportation, the shared past with our Canadian neighbors, open range ranching and agricultural homestead farming eras, The preservation of the Grand Union is one of Montana’s great historic preservation success stories. The 125th anniversary is both a celebration of the hotel and a tribute to Jim and Cheryl Gagnon and the many past proprietors of the grand old Grand Union.