Hotel Metlen a rich symbol of Dillon's Old West history

In our Montana Moment we explore the Hotel Metlen in Dillon. Once a destination spot for travelers, the Metlen was built for luxury. Some people say it's haunted. Who knows? But it does have a colorful history where the present dances with the past.

In our Montana Moment we explore a hotel that stands as one of Dillon's most iconic Old West landmarks.

Some say the Hotel Metlen is haunted. Who knows? But the elegant hotel certainly has a rich and colorful history.

If you ever travel to Dillon you will find that a train still rumbles through town. When it does it moves past the Metlen.

Trains are as much a part of the hotel as Dillon's ranching, mining and railroad history.

"It was the place to be," said Beaverhead County Museum executive director Cheryl Pierce. " If you were anybody you where at the Metlen rubbing elbows, visiting and hobnobbing.

J.C. Metlen came from a prominent pioneer ranching family in Dillon. He built his hotel in 1897.

"It catered to different groups of people," said the museum director. "There was a ladies parlor, and a lot of the men took time to pull up a bar stool and have a cigar and a nice drink."

In recent years Dorothy Alley owned the hotel. She died in the 1990s. The building remains in her family.

The hotel itself closed in 2008. But inside, two bars still cater to Dillon's people as well as tourists who come through looking for an authentic Old West experience.

In the old days they might have called them saloons.

"It was filled with luxury," said the hotel's general manager Bailey Murphy. "That's what he built it for."

The hotel cost about $100,000 when it was constructed, said Murphy. Today he said that's roughly $3 million.

It's made of sandstone brick with intricate scroll work.

Guests had their choice of 44 rooms.

Train passengers came from all points -- St.Louis, Salt Lake City.

All they had to do was walk a few steps to the Metlen, where they found deluxe accommodations.

"The Metlen," said Murphy, "was a destination spot."

Murphy showed us the the hotel's "original call system" for the rooms where high-powered politicians and an occasional celebrity stayed.

Murphy said sometimes strange things happen at the hotel.

"Everybody thinks it's haunted," he said. "I would say it probably is."

Bailey said sometimes keys go missing, doors unlock on their own, and furniture moves. He said hotel staff hear footsteps.

"I think a lot of them are the cowboy customers that still wander these halls," he said. "I think they're cowboys because of the noise their boots make on the hardwood floors."

But he said if there are ghosts they're not threatening.

"They're fun ghosts," he said. "The ghosts that are here had a good time. We like to say we are the caretakers of their place."

The Metlen with its Tiger oak wood and top-of-the-line furnishings was a high class hotel.

Murphy showed us Room 17. "A very well kept room," he pointed out, "with its own sink, large bed and shining furniture.

He showed us the hotel's poker table complete with overhead green lighting.

"The hotel has a rich poker history," he said.

The back bar is filled with historic pictures on ornate walls. It also features a bar that came from one of Montana's most famous mining towns.

"We know that it was in Bannack somewhere," said Bailey, "as well as a few local bars here in town."

Today there's a full dance floor in the front bar, where folks can dance to country western music.

As they two-step across the floor it makes you think that the Hotel Metlen is as lively as ever.

"There's definitely a feeling here," said Murphy, "that you're not walking alone."

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