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Last call for the Montana Club and a past straight out of “Yellowstone”


The Montana Club, a famous bar, dining hall and gathering place in Helena that was founded by pioneers in 1885 – four years before Montana became a state – will close its doors after a final toast on March 29.

The club, which also holds a notable place in black history, has struggled financially in recent years, leading to a bankruptcy filing in November. (The club is not associated with Club Montana restaurant chain.)

Before reorganizing in 2018 as a cooperative open to the public, the private club attracted an elite who would find their place perfectly in the television series “Yellowstone”: mining, livestock and timber barons, as well as bankers, politicians and lawyers who ran the company. the fortunes of the state over the years. (In fact, Cole Hauser, a star of the show, is a descendant of Samuel Hauser, Montana’s territorial governor and founder of the club, according to Charles Robison, its current president.)

“For a long time, everyone who shaped the state belonged to the Montana Club,” Mr. Robison said.

That said, one of the club’s most notable figures was a bartender who made the club’s culinary history a century ago.

Julian Anderson tended bar at the club for 60 years starting in 1893. He served not only the members, but also many famous guests, including Theodore Roosevelt. Mr. Anderson quietly entered posterity in 1919 when he became the second black bartender in the United States to publish a cocktail book called “Julian’s Recipes.” (The first was Tom Bullock of St. Louiswho wrote The ideal bartender” in 1917.)

Mr. Anderson’s legacy endures today. He was one of the sources of inspiration for “Juke Joints, Jazz Clubs and Juice” the latest work by Toni Tipton-Martin, whose books chronicle the contributions of black people to American cuisine.

“When I heard about Julian’s 1919 cookbook, I knew I had to add it to my collection of rare black cookbooks,” Ms. Tipton-Martin wrote in an email. “Like Tom Bullock’s collection, Anderson’s catalog of classic cocktails formalizes a pedigree behind the bar that can inspire the next generation.”

Mr. Anderson, whose parents were enslaved, was particularly famous for his mint juleps. The mint came from his own garden. He died in 1962 at the age of 102. His portrait still hangs in the club’s second-floor dining room.

The building has four owners. In 2022, three of them filed a lawsuit for unpaid dues and interest against the Original Montana Club Cooperative Association. The association, which manages the dining and events facilities, owns a little more than half of the property — a 1905 building designed by architect Cass Gilbert after the original club burned down. This conflict ultimately led to the filing for bankruptcy. The building permit and liquor license are now for sale.

There may still be hope for the establishment. “Certainly there are people interested in buying the club as a business and reopening it,” said Mr. Robison, a Montana lawyer and lobbyist who held his wedding rehearsal dinner there. “It’s possible this won’t be his last night.”

Farewells on March 29 are scheduled to begin at 4 p.m. and continue until closing. Mr. Robison confirmed that mint juleps will be served.

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