The Bozeman we all know and love today would look much different without the influence and design of Bozeman-born architect Frederick Willson.
After spending time in Paris following his graduation from Columbia University, Willson brought the influence of multiple architectural styles back to Bozeman with him, including Mission Revival and Art Deco. Over the next 46 years, he designed hundreds of well-known buildings in Bozeman and other Montana cities, including the Ellen Theatre, the Baxter Hotel, the Emerson Cultural Center, and both MSU’s original Student Union Building and Hamilton Hall. Although Willson died in 1956, his work can still be seen around Bozeman, West Yellowstone and Three Forks today.
Fast forward to 2018— the old National Guard armory building on the corner of Mendenhall and Willson will soon be transformed into the Etha Hotel, an eight-story boutique hotel with 122 rooms and a pool. Bozeman-based Venue Architects have plans to convert the concrete structure into a 17,000 square foot space, which will have enough room for an event area and an American bistro on the ground floor, and a bar or restaurant on the building’s rooftop.
The hotel will retain 98% of the original armory building, which was designed by Willson and constructed in 1941. The new building’s Art Deco style will imitate that of Willson’s previous designs, as elements such as doors and awnings have been taken from sketches of Willson’s that were never included in the armory’s original design. The entire project is expected to be completed by the end of 2019.