Missoula Firefighters with Wagon Outside of Central Livery Stables
August 11, 2021
This remarkable late 19th century photograph shows how different firefighting was over 100 years ago. These first responders didn't have the benefit of city water lines, firetruck, or even paved roads when they went out to fight a blaze.
They have, however, got the requisite fire helmets. Or at least two of them do.
The men are posed outside of the Central Livery Stables owned by J.P. Nagle, in the Studebaker building. In the beginning, the Studebaker building was dominated by the livery and, next door, a horse-shoeing shop. But in the early 20th century, as the advent of the automobile began to change the shape of Montana's roads, the Studebaker building began to diversify, adding a mechanic. As late as 1914, with cars ruling the roads, Nagle was still operating his livery.
Presumably, as the exigencies of city life and automation reached Missoula, these men's rustic equipment was replaced by more modern firefighting technology.
Now the Studebaker building, registered as a historical site, serves as the home of a waffle restaurant and a barber shop. Things change, but they don't change too much - the building's still there, and still seeing use by Montanans in their everday lives.