The three neighborhoods that make up the NMCDC’s service area are Missoula’s oldest, comprising the original nucleus from which today’s large city grew. The Northside, Westside and residential Downtown areas developed largely because of their proximity to the Northern Pacific Railroad and St. Patrick Hospital. Many neighborhood residents worked for the railroad, the Hospital, or for the industries that sprouted around the railroad yard. Sadly, this once thriving, working class community suffered a series of adversities in the latter part of the 20th century that began a new period of disinvestment and decline.
A short history of the Northside and Westside:
- 1939: Grade-level railroad crossings connecting the Northside to downtown closed, cutting off traditional routes to downtown
- 1965: The interstate highway construction removed 60 Northside residences and Garden City Brewery, a significant employer of neighborhood residents. The interchange fragmented the neighborhood and cut it off from the North Hills open space, the Northside’s traditional backyard.
- 60s and 70s: After losing employment opportunities, long-time neighborhood workers left, their aging houses bought cheaply and turned into rental properties.
- 70s and 80s: The railroad decommissioned its machine shops and roundhouse on the Northside. Contamination from former fueling operations warranted the site’s designation as a State of Montana Superfund Site.
- 1985: The school district shut down the neighborhood Whittier School to consolidate kids at Westside’s Lowell Elementary.
- 1996: White Pine Sash window and door manufacturer closed its already scaled back operation that had been a continuous neighborhood employer since before the turn of the century. At the same time that 80 jobs were lost, the neighborhood inherited its second state of Montana Superfund site.