Havre, Montana – A Gift of Historic Cards

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Shav LaVigne

Havre, Montana
A Gift of Historic Cards

It’s a habit for me to mention the word “postcard” everyplace I go, where there may be cards to see and buy. This was the case when I was shopping at an American Cancer Society Discovery Shop here in San Jose.

My usual inquiry about postcards is met by different responses, but most are like the lady working at the Discovery Shop. She asked why I was interested in postcards. I explain that I am a long-time collector and I am interested in seeing and sometimes buying old postcards for my collection.

This chance meeting led to the gift I received of the postcards that this person had but had no further use for. They are now safely in my collection to be preserved and protected for others to enjoy and learn from for years to come.

Havre is the county seat of Hill County, Montana. It is located near the Canadian border, about mid-way across the state. From the 2020 census we learn that on “census day” the city was home to 9,362 people. 

The general age of the cards is just around 100 years. They come from the 1920s. It’s easy to date them based on the AZO stamp boxes on the real-photo cards and the descriptions and photos shown on them.

Havre, pronounced HAV’-ea, was named for the city of Le Havre, France which was the birthplace of the city’s original homesteaders. The original city of Havre was relocated in 1887 to the mouth of Bull Hook Creek by the expansion of the Great northern Railroad. It was developed as a railroad division point and as a market for livestock and crops, notably wheat.  Havre incorporated as a town in 1892 and became a city in 1903.  It is home to Montana State University-Northern (founded in 1929).

The first of the lot is a bird’s eye view card. It is an AZO real photo of the city looking across the Milk River in about 1920.

The Hill County Courthouse was built in Havre in 1915 and is still in use today. This postcard of the recently constructed building is an AZO real photo. (Note misspelling of the city name.)

This AZO real photo card of Havre (again misspelled) High School was likely taken in 1918 when the school opened. The school was used through 1964.

The Sacred Heart Hospital was completed in 1931, after the first of the same name burned only one year after its completion. It took years of solving various financial problems to finally finish the building and open it as a hospital. This AZO real photo was probably taken just before it opened. (Again this unknown publisher was consistent in misspelling the name of the city, Havre)

When J. L. Robbins Co., of Spokane, Washington published this card it highlighted the “New Hospital, Havre, Mont.” The “new” hospital was built by Kennedy Deaconess Hospitals and completed in 1926. It was operated by Deaconess Hospitals through 1974.  In 1975, both Deaconess and Sacred Heart consolidated, and a new facility named Northern Montana Hospital took over the responsibilities and patients from both former operations.

Havre had a Carnegie Library. Beginning in 1889, Andrew Carnegie donated funds that built 1,689 libraries throughout the United States. The Havre Library was built in 1914. This real photo card of the Havre Carnegie Library was postally used on November 2 1917 to wish someone in Wisconsin a happy birthday. The current Havre public library is now about a block away from this historic old building which is now occupied by the Old Library Gallery.

This real photo shows the downtown business district of Havre, Montana at Third Avenue around 1920. Notice the abundant display of flags flying from the buildings.

It goes without saying that much has changed in the century since these cards were made. The person who received the library postcard as a birthday greeting is likely gone, but Havre, Montana continues to be a historic city and these postcards prove it.

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I have some AZO photo postcards and I find them particularly interesting because they were reproduced by actually developing them onto photographic paper the size and weight of postcards, with a postcard back. The AZO photo postcards shown in the article are numbered which makes me wonder how many were in the complete series and has the photographer been identified?

Sorry, I was not able to identify the photographer.

Thank you for publishing.

Shav, another well researched and interesting article, thanks.

While I noticed the “Harve” cards, Havre is actually spelled correctly on the Sacred Heart Hospital view.

One source of pride for a small town was a railroad depot, like this one.

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Thanks for sharing.

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