On the surface, Havre looks like an ordinary small town in north-central Montana. But it’s hiding a secret underneath its streets, one that even some who live in the area or have visited are unaware of. It’s housing an underground city where you’ll find artifacts from its past.
More than 100 years ago, Havre was a rambunctious town full of people who worked on the railroads. Then one morning in 1904, a fire started in the Gross and Lebert store, sweeping away blocks and destroying most of the town. In the aftermath, Havre’s residents didn’t abandon it. In fact, business owners simply moved underground to carry on with their business. And that’s how the underground city was born.
Today, Havre Beneath the Streets is a major tourist attraction. You can explore the town’s remains on a tour and get an idea of what life was like back then. You’ll see Sporting Eagle Saloon, a restaurant, a bordello, an opium den and a Chinese laundry spot.
The tunnels had more than one purpose in those days. They connected the underground businesses to one another, but they also served as safe places for the Chinese railroad workers who wanted to go places. Racism was rampant in the area, so “safe houses” were necessary for them. They were apparently safe on railroad property, so a lot of the tunnels were built from the property leading to the businesses.
If the tour leaves you thirsty for more historical stories, you can visit the nearby Havre Railroad Museum and read up on the role the railroad industry played in the development of Havre. The museum’s admission is free.
Havre Beneath the Streets tours are available Monday through Saturday during the winter, but they’re available seven days a week from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. all summer.