I’ve been looking now for about two years for an abandoned Silk City diner that is supposedly in storage somewhere outside Livingston. There was a photo on flickr (now gone) of it sticking out behind some trees, and almost no context. Livingston’s a network of ranches and winding dirt roads. You could look for a long time and I have. But hey, it’s gotten me onto those roads, and into some unusual places. Like behind the abandoned Melody on the road to Gardner, with this vintage trailer back behind as what I presume is part of the kitchen.
You want to talk guilty pleasures? Let’s talk Mark’s.
Quad Cheese Burgers. Milkshakes so thick they need some time to melt. Orders taken at the walk up, waits handled by buzzer. Every time I’m through Livingston, it’s a must stop. When they close for the winter, it’s local tragedy. When they reopen in the spring, rejoicing.
I finished this one up last night. The Blue Anchor is at such a wonderful location, in the crossroads town of Twin Bridges, Montana. Standing on the bridge, with that deep perspective of the road, the mountains tower, blue, over the bar. It’s an elegant building, simple and strong, with enough intricate brickwork to show the kind of craftsmanship that was in the area some hundred plus years ago.
You notice things staring a a building for hours when doing a painting that you wouldn’t otherwise. The window spacing, for instance, is off on one side of this building from the other. I haven’t been able to find historical photos going far enough back, but my guess is that the building was originally just the one side up to the center window, and that the other side was added on later and trimmed to bring the entire building together. Usually in that case, there will be differences in the coloration of the brick, like when they stopped and started on the Washington Monument. But with the harsh Montana sun and likely the same brickmaker and craftsmen working on it, I still have a feeling like this was the case.
In the 1930s, the building was updated into more or less what you see today. The ground floor windows were bricked over and re-proportioned, a glorious blue facade was added, along with a full width neon sign, inset glass brick doorways and a huge anchor shaped neon, protruding from the face of the building. The left hand side is a cafe, with a lunch counter and barrel roof straight out of an east coast diner of the 1930s. The right side is a bar, and with the separate entrances, from what I can tell, the two aren’t connected.
I love Butte. It’s about 85 miles west of me, which in Montana terms is a hop skip and a jump. Every time I go, I comb the streets and always find new and interesting things and always leave with the feeling that I’ve barely scratched the surface. Butte is a city of hidden treasures, of tucked away secrets, of back rooms and second stories.
The JFK is a ’60s corner bar located at 823 E Park Ave, Anaconda, MT 59711
The RB Drive in opened around 1945 as the Root Beer stand. For some great historical photos of it, please see: http://www.helenahistory.org/rb_drive_in.htm. Originally the foam of the pouring root beer was trimmed in horizontal bands of neon and sat on much higher poles. It appears the building is the same one, but has seen many minor changes over the years which have entirely changed the look.
Every drive in I’ve been to out here has had a different set up for ordering and getting your food delivered. Mark’s in Livingston is a walk up to order, walk up pick up and then you eat in your car. Ford’s in Great Falls had car hop ordering and delivery. Scotty’s you order inside a building and eat outside. You get the idea. The RB still has those classic push to talk menu boards at each parking place. A large picnic pavilion has been built at the far end of the parking lot, but we ate in the car.
RB Drive In
932 Helena Ave, Helena, MT 59601
Scotty’s has a nice space age look to the sign, and to the curvature of the supports for the canopy. Things get a bit visually cluttered with the retro tin signs and back-to-the-fifties theme on the inside, but on the whole it plays it pretty close to the original concept. They make a nice drive-in burger with just the right crust to the flat-top grilled meat.
The Peat Bar
1 Broadway St, Lima, MT 59739
It appears new owners have taken over the Peat as of 5-15-15 and will be reopening on July 1. Best of luck to them!
Ford’s Drive In opened in 1954. The radial design, with its central pylon and cable supported overhang of this one reminds me of late ’30s designs like Wayne McAllister’s Herbert’s or Simon’s, but the straight car awning and parking pattern negates that design. Maybe it was added later. Cheeseburger. Fries. Milkshake. I appreciated that the milkshake at this one was a proper consistency. I like a thick milkshake as much as the next guy, but I’ve been on a streak where I’ve been getting what seems like straight soft serve with a straw.
With a fabulous 3D neon sign and a bank of stools, how could I stay away from this charming lunch counter?
Just around the corner from the Sip and Dip / O’Hare’s Motor Inn, I met Beth Lennon of Retro Roadmap and Cliff Hillis here for a chicken fried steak, to recover from the previous night’s fishbowl (more on that later) and to stoke up for what would prove to be a long day of thrifting.