Joseph Metlen, was a local businessman and politician who wanted to promote city growth in Dillon, Montana, by building a hotel in 1897. The Union Pacific Railroad brought travelers to the hotel.

Joseph C. Metlen was born in Pennsylvania in 1834. He arrived in Montana, in 1867, thirty years before he constructed Hotel Metlen. He and his brother worked as freighters from Corrine, Utah. Metlen valued his civic duty and represented Beaverhead County in the territorial legislature in 1871 and was elected as county treasurer in Dillion in 1883. As ambitious as he was, Metlen ran for sheriff in 1884 without success. The Hotel Metlen opened to the public on February 11, 1898.

The Metlen’s design modeled the Second Empire Style popular in the nineteenth century. Its most distinguishable feature is the Mansard roof typical of many other hotels built around the same period and most popular between the 1860s and 1880s. The roof’s style is recognizable by the slopes on each side. Another major characteristic of Second Empire architecture is the hotel’s two stories and brick walls. Inside of the building is a lobby, a bar, sample rooms, a kitchen, twenty-seven guest rooms, and the proprietor’s room. 

The hotel did not start successfully, as there were a few issues with its first structure. Originally, when the hotel was still named the Corrine in 1897, the structure was made of cloth-lined partitions that lacked the stability and permanence necessary for it to thrive. In 1892, a fire destroyed the Corrine, leading Metlen to build a new and improved hotel. With a clean slate, Metlen altered the structure’s overall appearance. These changes included painting the exterior white and building a penthouse on the roof. Metlen set up the hotel to potentially have multiple functions. (For example, during WWII, the penthouse served as an aircraft control center for report aircraft movements.) A local newspaper called the Hotel Metlen “the dawn of an era of better things for the city,” as it would attract tourists and provide commerce.

The hotel closed in 2008, but two bars inside the building, owned by Phylly Sax, remain open. Current staff have said that keys go missing and furniture moves, contributing to rumors of hauntings and strange activity. Most of the old furnishings and original woodwork remain intact. The appearance of the inside of the hotel caters to fans of the Old West aesthetic with a hodgepodge of items like pistols and animal skulls.

Images

Hotel Metlen
Hotel Metlen The Metlen’s windowed mansard roof is typical of the Second Empire architectural style. Source: Courtesy of Phylly Sax, personal photograph collection.
Metlen balcony
Metlen balcony In the early-twentieth century, the Hotel Metlen had a balcony before Dillon, Montana had paved streets. Source: Courtesy of Phylly Sax, personal photograph collection.
Hotel Metlen and Metlen Bar
Hotel Metlen and Metlen Bar The front of the Hotel Metlen in 1983. The hotel entrance is in the center, with another doorway for the Metlen Bar off to the side. Source: “Southeast Facade.” Les Rickey, 1983. Courtesy of the National Park Gallery. https://npgallery.nps.gov/NRHP/GetAsset/NRHP/83003978_photos. Creator: Les Rickey
Metlen interior
Metlen interior Source: Courtesy of Phylly Sax, personal photograph collection. Creator: A dog-friendly common room with collections of western-themed items and furniture. The seating is not original.
Bar in the Metlen
Bar in the Metlen An Old West-inspired bar with polished , well-maintained countertops. Source: Courtesy of Phylly Sax, personal photograph collection.

Location

5 S Railroad Ave Dillon, Montana 59725

Metadata

Nova Jesswein, Northern Arizona University, “The Hotel Metlen,” Intermountain Histories, accessed May 18, 2024, https://www.intermountainhistories.org/items/show/534.