MISSOULA, Mont. — There's an historic building in downtown Missoula that's unveiling stories forgotten to time.
For years, the building's original face was covered up.
But restoration crews are peeling off that facade and finding rich pieces of Garden City history.
For generations, when Missoulians walked by the old Radio Central Building they saw a metal-paneled structure of streamlined Moderne architecture.
SIRIUS Construction is finding the building's true face underneath.
"We're taking it off and unveiling one of the most beautiful historic features in downtown Missoula," said SIRIUS president and project manager Marc Umile. " We're putting a plan together to bring those things back to their original look and feel."
The building was called Union Block and was constructed between 1891 and 1893 by Missoula pioneers Higgins, Greenough and Houston.
"Our streets are named after these guys. Parks are named after these guys," said Marc. " They invested a lot of money back in 1891 to build a state-of-the-art building."
In the 1940's, Union Block was updated to current trends of the day.
But its sleek mid-century look hid its true nature.
"It was always there," said Marc. "But for many, many years no one knew it was there."
The old Radio Central was once home to KGVO radio.
That building has its own colorful history.
" Paul Harvey got one of his first starts in this building," said DVG architect Dave Gray. " and he was fired."
Harvey was a famous radio broadcaster for ABC Radio.
Gray and Umile both love old stories like that.
The men are like kids who've discovered a lost treasure.
"This is a plum," said Dave, referring to the huge granite blocks that support the front of the building, and the intricately carved columns.
He is especially impressed with "the front door columns and the entryway where 'Union' is carved into the granite stone."
Real estate investor Nick Caras and his business partner Nick Ehlen bought the building to renovate.
They're working with the Missoula Redevelopment Agency to restore the building's facade.
Caras, whose own family roots run deep through Missoula, said when crews started "peeling off the bones" he knew it was something special.
Dave Gray discovered just how special by accident.
"The building was never intended to be restored on the exterior," he said. "It was something we stumbled upon during interior renovations."
Everywhere, you see extraordinary workmanship.
The architect pointed to the tight brick work that has been uncovered.
"It would take a master mason to lay that brick with such precision," he said.
Much of the material was probably imported.
But much of it is local.
Gray showed us brick work in the interior.
He said they came from Brick Yard Hill in East Missoula, and were fired in beehive kilns and made of local clay.
Site superintendent Cullen Swatosh held up part of a timber from the building.
The growth rings on it were so small you could barely see them.
" The timbers that are in this building would have been alive and growing," said Swatosh, "when the Pilgrims landed on the east coast."
You can't find timbers like that anymore.
Inside, the beauty of the wood is left exposed to admire.
"Every time we take something off the building," said Marc," we see something that we had no idea was there."
During the Great Depression the WPA or Works Progress Administration was housed here.
But its history dates back long before that.
"This was a commercial center," said Dave. "It said Missoula was important and people were here to stay."
"We have a building," said Marc, "that's going to be a feather in the cap of downtown Missoula."
The Old Union Block is bridging past to present in honor of Missoula's rich history.