Deer Lodge Old Prison & Auto Museum
Photo courtesy: Pat Hensen
Photo courtesy: John Ansotegui
Deer Lodge is the county seat for Powell County. The area around Deer Lodge has a long history of use by Native Americans, French Canadian fur trappers, and others. The local Shoshones called the site It Soo'-Ke-En Car'-Ne, "Lodge of the white-tailed deer"; trappers translated the name as La Loge du Chervreuil, and English-speaking settlers translated the French as Deer Lodge (so named because of the salt lick at the base of the Warm Springs Mound that attracted hundreds of deer). The area had previously been known as Spanish Fork, Cottonwood, La Barge City, and Idaho City. When Montana Territory was formed out of portions of Idaho Territory, the Deer Lodge Town Company hired cartographer Walter W. DeLacy to plat the new town under its present name. (Copyright 2009, Montana Historical Society: Montana Place Names from Alzada to Zortman, Montana Historical Society Research Center Staff)
More museums and historical collections can be found here than in any other town in the Northwest. The Old Montana Prison opened its doors in 1871 and was in use until 1979. Guided and self-guided tours lead visitors beyond the gray stone wall and towers through the now unused prison with its four-tiered cell block, gothic facade and huge prison yard. Montana Auto Museum is a unique museum with interpretive exhibits and over 120 antique cars on display. Frontier Montana Museum contains the best display of cowboy collectibles between Cody and Calgary. See the guns, spurs, chaps, reatas and all the rest. Then tour Desert John's Saloon, a unique whiskey memorabilia collection. Powell County Museum, a local history museum, features an extensive gun collection as well as slot machines and jukeboxes. Memories of your youth will come alive when you step into Yesterdays Playthings.
Deer Lodge's 1,500-acre Grant-Kohrs Ranch National Historic Site illustrates the development of the Northern Plains cattle industry from the 1850s to recent times. This was the headquarters area of one of the largest and best known 19th-century range ranches in the country. Today the ranch house, bunkhouse and outbuildings are much as they were during ranch operations from the 1860s through the 1960s. Guided tours of the house, self-guiding walks and exhibits are available for free.
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