The neighborhood’s rural heritage can be seen in the century old apple trees still growing in some yards.
It wasn’t that long ago that this neighborhood was more apple trees than front yards, but today’s Emma Dickinson/Orchard Homes Neighborhood still bears the fruit of a neighborhood with rural appeal. The Clark Fork River runs along the north side of this sun-drenched swath of land where large commercial businesses exist along with homes and family farms. This is still a growing community, in more ways than one. If you were ever wondering where some of the food and flowers at Missoula’s farmers’ markets come from, you don’t even have to look outside of town. Much of the bounty is grown here. And if you’re going places, getting to downtown, the University, Southgate Mall, and Missoula’s two hospitals is a breeze. Entryways to the Riverfront Trail system are located near this neighborhood, so biking and walking are viable transportation options. Some neighbors may live in the same house they grew up in. Others may be young families new to Missoula. Some still live on large acreage, vestiges of the orchard days. Others live in higher density areas closer to their neighbors. This is a neighborhood that blooms with diversity, blossoms with possibility, and lives on because of its strong roots.
- The River Road Neighborhood is served by Mountain Line Route 9.
- To find the public schools in this neighborhood, visit the Missoula County Public Schools website and view the Attendance Boundary Maps located here.
City of Missoula
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From farmland to the front yard, this homegrown neighborhood flourishes.
You can really get a feel for the small town Missoula once was when you’re in the Emma Dickinson/Orchard Homes Neighborhood. Reserve Street was a rural road and most properties were measured in multiple acres. And this wasn’t that long ago. You’ll still experience an agrarian approach to life here. Sunlight is in surplus in this flat area along the Clark Fork corridor. The ground is fertile for beautiful residential gardens and larger operations. Benson’s Farm was started by Otto Benson and is still owned and operated by his grandson. This family farm and nursery is beloved by the Missoula community. Particularly popular around October 31, claiming your perfect pumpkin at Benson’s is a Halloween tradition. Turner Farms on 7th Street raises more than natural produce. They have turkeys, chickens, and farm-fresh eggs too. Garden City Harvest’s River Road Community Garden is in the process of expanding its volunteer-operated plots near the Clark Fork. On the west side of Reserve Street, Caras Nursery is a staple for the Missoula gardener with its magical greenhouses and gardens. Just walking through will inspire you to flex your green thumb. Christmas at Caras is another enchanting experience, with trees, greenery, and festive décor. Another nursery famous for its holiday spirit is the Pink Grizzly. Christmas wreaths are its specialty and can be shipped anywhere in the United States. They also bring flash to the Fourth of July with a seasonal fireworks stand.
Whether its growing season or not, there are plenty of other pastimes in the Emma Dickinson/Orchard Homes Neighborhood. One of Missoula’s newest parks was spurred on by the River Road Community. Missoula Parks and Recreation is developing Lafray Park and soon will have new playground equipment. Active neighborhood involvement in this new green space even extends to the neighborhood volunteers who will be putting together the playground themselves. Even if you’ve been out of school for a while, you can still learn something new. Classes at the Emma Dickinson Lifelong Learning Center on Curtis offer everything from boot camp to QuickBooks classes. Nearby Westside Lanes and Fun Center draws families, friends, and serious bowlers to wear brightly colored shoes and show off their pin-tumbling skills. Residents also gather as they have since 1911 at theOrchard Homes Country Life Center on the corner of Seventh and Reserve, which hosts a variety of regular events including a weekday farmers’ market that many Missoulians may not know about.
The Emma Dickinson/Orchard Homes Neighborhood is a place where local commerce thrives. Some of Missoula’s favorite businesses do quite well here. The Good Food Store bustles with activity every day of the week on the corner of Russell and 3rd Street. Along with natural foods and home necessities, the store offers regular cooking classes like cake decorating and sushi rolling. Nearby, Missoulians can enjoy a meticulously crafted pint of beer at Bayern Brewing on Wyoming Street. Owned and operated by Bavarian transplant Jürgen Knöller, Bayern has been the only German brewery in the Rocky Mountains for over two decades and follows the strict brewing protocol of the German Law of Purity established in 1516. The taproom is open daily and the summer draws crowds to the outdoor beer garden with Friday night bratwurst, sauerkraut, and German potato salad served out on the patio. In addition to its Fourth Street retail bakery, Le Petit Outre recently located its bulk bakery to the Emma Dickinson/Orchard Homes Neighborhood, where some of Missoula’s favorite breads, like Birdman Bread, rise to the occasion for delivery to local groceries and restaurants. And for those handymen and women involved in home improvement, Home ReSource has established its new dwelling on Wyoming Street. Home ReSource takes in and re-sells salvaged building materials, keeping them out of the landfill and giving them new life in new homes. Home and community are the life of this neighborhood, so grounded in its rural connection between people and the land. This link continues into the present and future growth of the Emma Dickinson/Orchard Homes Neighborhood.
The pumpkin patch at Turner Farms in the Emma Dickinson/Orchard Homes Neighborhood holds some hidden treasures. A local pre-school teacher brings her students every year and they can etch their names into the pumpkin of their choice. Mind you, the pumpkin is still on the vine at this point. As the pumpkin matures, each child’s name will stay with it until harvest time when they come to retrieve it. In these pumpkins, kids can see the lasting impression of their own identity.
In Missoula some family names span history. Since its settlement, Emma Dickinson/Orchard Homes has been a family place. One of the oldest families living and working in the neighborhood has ties back to Missoula’s historic Greek community. In the late 1800s European immigrants made their way to Missoula to work on the railroad. A small Greek population made its way to Missoula as well. While many left after the work was complete, some stayed. Among them were Jim and Sam Caras, founders of Garden City Floral. Today, the Caras family is still in the gardening business with Caras Nursery and has risen to civic prominence sharing their last name with one of Missoula’s main attractions, Caras Park. Read more about Missoula’s early Greek history by clicking here.
In just the last 30 years, another population now calls Missoula home. The Hmong community brings a rich and distinctive culture to the city. Many Hmong came to America from Laos after the Vietnam War and settled throughout the states. Missoula’s Hmong community is a tightly knit group known for growing some of the region’s finest produce and flowers, with farms in and around the Emma Dickinson/Orchard Homes Neighborhood. Much of their bounty can be purchased at Missoula’s Saturday morning farmers’ markets.
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.