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.