Rose Park

You just never know who you’ll run into around the corner.

If you were to look at the Rose Park Neighborhood from above, you’d quickly notice a strange take on the traditional grid with streets tilting about 45 degrees from due north. Affectionately known by many Missoulians as the “slant streets,” Rose Park residents are savvy navigators of this alternative layout. Because Rose Park is an extremely pedestrian and bike-friendly neighborhood, it’s not unusual for neighbors to be out and about. Long-time residents and young families make up the majority of the Rose Park residents. The slant streets may be a bit intimidating for those traveling by car, so there’s usually very little traffic. A slower, more laid back approach to life reigns here. Sitting on your front porch on a famously endless Missoula summer night, you might hear the sounds of kids squealing with delight or jaunty ragtime piano music drifting out of an open window next door. Your dog’s ears will perk up as a familiar neighbor and their dogs pass by. They’re headed for some ice cream and invite you to come along. Is there really any choice but yes? This is the essence of the Rose Park Neighborhood. It’s a place where enjoying the Missoula life goes well beyond stopping to smell the roses, but, incidentally, in this neighborhood you can do that too.

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No matter how you navigate Rose Park, you’ll always find inspiration.

rose-park-live-hereThe Rose Park architecture ranges from turn-of-the-century to the 1950s. The centerpiece and namesake is, of course, Rose Memorial Park,home to the Montana Korean War Memorial, which was dedicated on June 14 (Flag Day) in 1997. An abundance of rose varieties bloom in this lush and restive park in the spring and summer. Many other green spaces and parks can be found in the neighborhood. In fact, when the 53-year-old Fire Station #2 was being torn down at Plymouth and Mount, a group of neighbors took on the task of utilizing the salvaged materials to create a beautiful pocket park. Today, Triangle Park is xeriscaped with native plants and contains Missoula’s only meditative labyrinth. Rose Park’s active neighborhood council is always busy, but takes time out to simply bring folks together for a neighborhood social during their summer meeting.

While out for a walk, artists young and old might think to bring one of their masterpieces along. There’s an unofficial art exchange wall on Kent Avenue where budding Picassos may hang their work on the fence for display. If anything catches your eye, you can take it – as long as you replace it with a work of your own.

Another popular pedestrian destination shared by many neighborhoods on this side of town is the walk-up Dairy Queen on Higgins, which has been treating Missoula for over 50 years. This mainstay is closed during the coldest months, but it’s re-opening is the social event of warmer seasons. It’s a sure sign that spring is here and summer isn’t far behind. For the far out and funky, Rockin’ Rudy’s is a delight for all Missoulians. The shop has resided in the old Eddy’s Bakery building on Blaine since the 1990s. From humorous fridge magnets and bumper stickers to beautiful jewelry to a wide selection of music, this is the place to find just about anything. The most traveled slant street, Brooks, bisects the neighborhood and leads to many businesses and restaurants on Missoula’s southwest side, including the Southgate Mall. North on Higgins will take you downtown in minutes. Weave through the tree-lined back streets and you can access the trail along the Clark Fork though the Riverfront Neighborhood. If you do get lost in the slant streets, take this tip from a local – streets that are parallel to each other will eventually intersect.

Mature Norway Maples line many of the streets in the Rose Park neighborhood, and are said to have been planted by decree from one of Missoula’s founding fathers, Francis L. (Frank) Worden. Worden and his business partner, C.P. Higgins, co-founded the early towns of Hellgate and Missoula.

The unusual layout of the slant streets in Rose Park came about in the 1880s when local lawyers Bickford and Stephens decided to establish the new town of South Missoula on either side of the wagon road that connected Missoula with the Bitterroot. The roads in their new settlement were designed to run parallel and perpendicular to the existing wagon road. Judge Knowles, who owned land between the Clark Fork and the border of South Missoula, had no desire to become part of this settlement. When his request for annexation to Missoula proper was granted, he felt strongly that the streets in this area needed to conform to the traditional grid, running parallel and perpendicular to the river. All other Missoula streets followed suit, but the slant streets remind us of a different plan for our city.

The historic home and artist’s studio of another famous Missoulian, Edgar R. Paxson, is easy to spot with its grand turret on Stephens Avenue. A painter and history buff, Paxson spent 20 years researching and eight years painting his most famous work, “Custer’s Last Battle on the Big Horn in Montana.” Completed in 1925, the work contains over 200 figures.

From historical to paranormal, the Rose Park Neighborhood even has it’s own haunted house. On 5th Street and Chestnut, you can find what has been dubbed “the spookiest house in Montana.” Unexplained screams, handwriting on the wall, and an alleged ghost sighting prompted more than home improvement. An exorcism was held that quieted the house for a time. Recent owners gave the Victorian beauty much needed TLC including hand-milling the fish scale shingles. But as for the ghosts, you’ll just have to see for yourself.

Many of us remember the various ways we kept up on the comings and goings of our hometowns and neighborhoods. Whether it was through the grapevine, a community group, or the weekly newspaper, we had a resource for information and an outlet to share our thoughts. The LiveMissoula! neighborhood blogs revisit that concept in a new way by providing an open, online destination where neighborhood stories can be posted and shared. To contribute to the discussion, we encourage you to add your comments. If you have an idea for a story, contact the Neighborhood Volunteer Advocate listed under each neighborhood’s Fast Facts pages.