Friday marks the 50th anniversary of the start of the Greenough Mansion's move, one of Missoula’s quirkier stories in its 150-year history. The mansion on Rattlesnake Creek, owned by Ruth (Greenough) Mosby and her husband Art, had turned 100 years old the year before, but was in the path of the approaching Interstate 90.
It took 15 months, but the three-story house finally found a home in the Mosbys' Leisure Highlands development in the South Hills. There it served in a variety of capacities until burning down in 1992.
In 1968 Paul Harvey, the nationally syndicated radio commentator who was once fired by Art Mosby in Missoula, wrote a tribute to the mansion that appeared in newspapers across the U.S.
Here is that column, reprinted in its entirety:
Missoula, Mont., was a garden spot when Angel and I honeymooned there. Astraddle a sparkling mountain stream, snuggled in a protected valley, with just enough imported by the state university and anything you really needed for sale at Missoula Mercantile.
And, for a poor boy, there was the handsome Greenough Mansion for inspiration.
Mr. Greenough, a hardworking, self-made, successful lumberman, built this handsome 22-room house with its six baths and marble fixtures and several fireplaces and crystal chandeliers as a monument to his success and as a reward for the family which had suffered with him through the long, lean years.
To me, in those very modest years of early marriage, the great Greenough Mansion of tamarack wood with a ballroom on its third floor was tangible evidence that Horatio Alger lives on.
Another young man of Missoula, Art Mosby, shared my admiration of that house and was similarly inspired by it.
The Greenoughs eventually moved on to seek their fortune elsewhere. Art Mosby stayed and, motivated by that mansion, made his own fortune in Missoula.
I watched, fascinated from a distance as my long-ago friend worked for and then owned the radio station in Missoula, then other radio and TV stations, then real estate.
And eventually, perhaps inevitably, that mansion was his home.
When they announced the new highway was coming through that property, the city was stunned – Mr. Mosby was thunderstruck.
With the casual indifference of bureaucracy, it was decreed that the great house with its beautiful stained glass windows and wrought iron fence and wall coverings of velvet and brocade had been condemned by the state and would be destroyed.
I was not particularly surprised subsequently to hear that Art Mosby had bought the house back from the state, offered to move it and to present it to the city as a museum.
But there was no city budget for maintenance, and other legal considerations complicated acceptance.
That year, 1965, a fire destroyed much of the mansion’s interior. It appeared Missoula’s oldest landmark was doomed.
But Mr. Mosby, of stubborn Danish ancestry, refused to give up. He moved the tremendous house as far as the Clark Fork River before the highway department refused to allow the overweight house to be moved across the Madison Street Bridge.
A less determined man would have abandoned his project. Instead, Mrs. Mosby conferred with experts – divided the huge structure into three pieces – and thus got it across the river and onto a prominent hilltop southeast of town,
There all Missoula, looking up can see the mansion, reassembled and restored to its former splendor.
Now Mr. Mosby has opened the old mansion to tours by visitors. Especially he encourages visits by schoolchildren and young marrieds, hopeful the grand house may mean to them something of what it meant to him, that it might inspire them as it did him.
Not in resent those who have more, but to emulate, imitate and outdo them if we can.