Augusta’s 105-year-old Bunkhouse Inn changes hands
The search for a simple cabin in the Sun Canyon took an unexpected turn for Donna and Channing Hartelius of Great Falls.
Instead of a cabin in the mountains, Donna recently purchased the Bunkhouse Inn, a 1912 hotel on Augusta’s Main Street.
Channing said it didn’t cost any more than buying a place in the mountains, wasn’t far from the canyon and came with the opportunity to meet people. The inn includes living quarters.
“We said let’s see what we can do,” he said. “Every hiker or camper has enjoyed our hospitality and said they’re coming back next year.”
He said guests enjoy Augusta’s community atmosphere and friendly people. The hotel has had a bar and restaurant, but they’re sticking to the more recent tradition of encouraging their guests to enjoy what Augusta already has to offer in bars and restaurants.
The Bunkhouse has a good following of Continental Divide Trail hikers, outfitter clients and people who love the outdoors. People who want to “experience Montana in its natural environment” find their way to the inn, Channing said.
“We want to promote new experiences, great people and great hospitality,” he said.
Donna said she plans to keep the hotel affordable and rustic. The nine rooms share two bathrooms, and she plans to add another bathroom.
A local contractor is tearing up the carpet and refinishing the historic wood floors.
In 1912, the Great Northern built a branch line but stopped just north of Augusta. The railroad established the town of Gilman, and many businesses moved from Augusta to the new town. In 1923, the Gilman State Bank, like many others, closed.
The rooms are $55-$75 a night, including tax.
The inn has been a summer/fall operation, but Donna plans to have it open year-round. She anticipates snowmobiles and skiers finding their way to the Bunkhouse.
Channing said the inn also can be a great stop-off place between Yellowstone and Glacier national parks.
“Tourism and recreation are popular in Montana, and we figured why not be part of it?” he said.
“This is a back-roads, real Montana experience,” Donna added.
They are shopping for antiques at Days Gone By Antiques of Choteau, another chance to keep the operation as local as possible, Donna said.
The pair has experience in hospitality. Their former bed and breakfast, the Charlie Russell Manor, hosted the likes of President George W. Bush and actor Wilford Brimley.
Donna also owns A Healthy Horizon in Great Falls and expects to offer health products through the Bunkhouse in time.
Owner/broker Lynn Kenyon of Live in Montana Real Estate said the historic property was on the market 98 days. The company also has listings for the Wagons West Motel (campground/cafe/bar/casino) and the Lazy B Bar, built in 1883, other Augusta businesses.