Lavina man pours his life into renovating historic hotel

MARY PICKETT Of The Gazette Staff

LAVINA - Wind chimes hanging from the Adams Hotel porch ring melodically in the prairie wind at the approach of a storm.

History - and maybe a few ghosts - haunt the rambling wood structure that has held the high hopes and heartbreak of many.

he past few years, it has been home to Raymond Barry and 10 cats.

Barry bought the hotel in 2000, and "it's owned me since," he said. "It's my everything, my family.

When he adopted the orphaned building, it needed a lot of attention.

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The Adams Hotel was one of two LUXURY HOTELS on the Milwaukee Railroad line.

It boasted of gas lighting, steam radiators, carpeted rooms, hand painted Chamber sets in each room (wash bowl, pitchers, soap dish, tooth brush holder, water mug, and matching chamber pot) . It had a functioning dining room with a grand piano, and a in-house bar, a Ladies Withdrawing room on the second floor, with a smaller piano .

There was a skylight over the main stairwell, and another skylight opening on to an atrium, providing air and light to four inner bedrooms.

These have been enlarged and changed into a solarium with a bronze fountain, surrounded by four Doric Columns, under the skylight. The fountain hails from the Netherlands, and came from a hotel built the same year as the Adams., 1908. The fountain has the figure of a child, supporting a dish with three dancing winged cherubs frolicking on the rim of the dish.

The solarium is furnished in white wicker furniture. There are six hanging kerosene library lamps, that complete the large sunny room.

Some History:

Named for a Sweetheart by Margaret Lehfeldt and Mary Morsanny

Lavina was founded just forty miles north of the Northern Pacific railhead in Billings by one of the Territory's best known pioneers, T.C. Power.

In earlier years, T.C. Power was well established in Fort Benton at the time that fortified fur post changed into a thriving city when rush to the gold mines increased river trade on the Upper Missouri. T.C. Power knew until 1880 Central Montana abounded in wildlife with thousands of buffalo but was practically uninhabited.

Never-the-less, he knew with the coming of the railroad envisioned a stage line to answer the demand for a direct over-land route to connect the railroad with his holdings in Fort Benton so in May of 1882 he organized the Billings - Benton Stage Company. It was the first north-south line to carry mail on coaches.

About midway on the stage line there was the river that cut its age-old course through the trees and tall grass meadows of the wide Musselshell Valley. Where there was a good ford, he chose an ideal site for a station, and said "With Clate Warner and other hired help, we put up stage stables, mess house, bunk house for the men to sleep in, a store, and of course my saloon.

That was the biggest business of them all." Even though he was appointed as the first post master, he made the rounds of the stage line every month but none of the stations pleased him as much as the one on the south bank of the Musselshell, and in memory of a former sweetheart, Walter Burke named it Lavina.

As the Musselshell Valley settled up thick in the summer of 1882, the stage stop became known as Old Lavina and it was a hub of activity.

The bell tolled for Old Lavina when the surveyors chose a new town site a mile downstream in the wide bend of the Musselshell that had been the old Indian campground.

A few months later on February 16, 1908, the first passenger train steamed past the old stage stop and pulled up to the depot in what was now New Lavina