The Baxter Hotel: From ballroom to Bacchus

It’s March 2, 1929. The newly built Baxter Hotel, financed by approximately 250 Bozeman businessmen, has opened its doors. Named for its lead financier, a rancher in the Gallatin Valley, the hotel capped the west end of downtown. The headline of the newspapers stacked on the reception desk proclaim the passing of the Jones Act, a final breath for Prohibition, which severely increases the penalties for bootlegging. Fourteen days later, on March 16, during the official celebration of the opening, Prohibition is far from everyone’s minds as partygoers toast “to the Hotel Baxter, to pledge ourselves to cooperate in doing everything possible to make Bozeman the best town in America in which to live.”

Since then, the art deco interior of the Baxter has consistently been home to new businesses and people. Originally, the Baxter had 76 rooms available for guests, two bars and a restaurant. The second floor, like today, boasts a ballroom. The large neon sign atop the building has been there since the Baxter’s opening, spreading an impressive 32 feet high and 45 feet wide. Since 1988, the roof of the hotel has also been home to a flashing blue beacon that is lit whenever Bridger Bowl accumulates at least two inches of fresh snow. This beacon has only been out of commission for two days since its installation — unlike the neon hotel sign which was out of commission for about 40 years.

The Bacchus Pub, a popular hub even now for their unique drinks and satisfying food options, has rotated through a series of openings, closings and refurbishings, but has been an institution throughout most of the Baxter’s history. The current Bacchus Pub rejuvenated the original version of the medieval European pub that visitors loved in the 20s and 30s. The second bar space and the restaurant space from the early years of the Baxter are now home to Ted’s Montana Grill, and the reception desk is home to La Chȃtelaine chocolates.

The lobby of the hotel has live music frequently to entertain the overspill from the Bacchus. On busier nights, the entire area can be packed with people conversing, eating and listening to live performances. This Saturday, Feb. 13, Edis Kittrell, a folk and blues artist, is performing from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.

The mezzanine level of the Baxter may not be as familiar, but many community events, such as fundraisers, luncheons, seminars and cocktail parties, take place there. The ballroom is also a popular wedding destination. The small lounge right outside of the ballroom contains multiple small tables, easy access outlets and comfortable seating, making it a favorite off-campus area to study in between errands and shopping.

The hotel rooms have since been converted into about 20 condominium-style rooms and multiple small offices. The top four floors of the building host those residential apartments, while the third floor is home to commercial businesses such as Forward Montana Foundation, Montana Wilderness Association, among others.

The Baxter is the beating heart of Main Street, and has been a popular meeting place for Bozeman residents for almost 90 years and is frequently referred to as the “crown jewel of Bozeman.”