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"Unseen Missoula" guided tours bring city's history to light

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Posted at 8:10 AM, Apr 25, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-25 10:11:32-04

MISSOULA — Whether it’s cabin fever or some spring blues and the need to get out of the house is alive and well, Downtown Missoula Partnership has got us all covered. In their guided walking tours known as “Unseen Missoula,” they spotlight the unique history of The Garden City.

On the “Unseen Missoula” tours there are a lot of wow moments, with exclusive access to parts of Missoula that we normally don’t get to see.

“This is a steam tunnel," Tour Guide John Stefanek told MTN News while on a tour. "A lot of these were built back in early Missoula throughout the 20th century.”

The tour is more than just looking at old artifacts. It is about learning stories and the foundations on which Missoula was built and who built up the River City.

“You can have are complicated people, some of them did some bad things and some good things but at the end of the day, they're human beings and they're very complex,” said Stefanek.

And the legacy of two big players can still be seen in our city today.

“Got the old Higgins bridge now the Bear Tracks bridge,” Stefanek shows in an old photograph.

“The dynamic between Higgins and Hammond and kind of the land grab and political play there,” said Brandon Dewey, Downtown Missoula Partnership program director.

“[Steam tunnels] are largely by A.B. Hammond, who is a big Missoula businessman and he, of course, liked to get his hands on everything, but at the same time was really important because Missoula got really cold in the winter and still does, of course, and so these are a way of generating heat around town, especially for businesses so people weren't, you know, freezing all the time," said Stefanek, walking through an old steam tunnel.

“To me, it's very important that you're making efforts to show that this stuff still really matters,” said Stefanek.

The purpose behind the tours is two-fold. Bring in business to local storefronts that the tour stops by, but also to shed light on the history of Missoula.

“The intent of the Heritage Missoula program from what 'Unseen Missoula' was born from, was to really connect the locals to the heritage of downtown,” Dewey said.

The tours run from April through October. Groups are capped at 15 people at $12 a tour.