The future site of the Swift building, along the southern banks of the Clark Fork River in the Missoula Valley, hosted native grasslands and Salish Indian people. This rich land served as a seasonal gathering ground for Salish, who camped there to harvest bitterroot, a plant whose roots were used as a food source.
The Swift building was the first and only structure in what was envisioned to be a bustling warehouse district for the Chicago-Milwaukee-St. Paul Railroad. The building soon hosted the Swift Meat Packing Company, a national meat processor that pioneered the refrigerated rail care and occupied the building well into the next decade.
Blair Transfer and Storage occupied the Swift property, where they remained into the 1960’s. The Milwaukee’s rail yard and freight warehouse is now the sight of the Missoulian newspaper building.
The Swift building went through a series of occupancy changes, includingi Western Montana Monument ( a company best known for making tombstones). Eventually, the railroad pulled its tracks from the river corridor and the building was unoccupied. Once a hub of activity, the building fell into a state of disrepair.
Sisters Lin and Judy Smith saw the beauty of this run-down building and purchased the structure from the railroad. The Smith sisters intentionally preserved this historic, working-class building to honor an important part of Missoula’s past. In addition to preserving the facade of the Swift building, the Smith sisters actively campaigned to secure Missoula’s first open space sanctuary in the heart of downtown.
Making another milestone in the story of the Swift building was its purchase by the Missoula-based non-profit, Ecology Project International. The building will provide long-term stability for innovative non-profits and serve as a resource for the vibrant non-profit community that exisits in Missoula.