The Warr and Laux buildings built side by side in 1904-1905 by Nancy Watts

The Warr Building at 212 W. Main (formerly Victory Barber Shop) was built in 1904 by John Laux for Austin W. Warr. John H. Kent was the architect. The Laux building at 214-216 W. Main (formerly the Empire Café, now Lewistown’s Sew Pieceful) was built in 1905 by Phillip Laux. “Phillip Laux came to Montana in 1885 from Germany and worked in a Helena stone quarry until he relocated to Lewistown in 1890. Two of the earliest stone builders in Lewistown, brothers John and Phillip Laux constructed many local buildings.” (Lewistown Preservation Office Interpretation sign).

“John Laux has the contract for the stone work on a new business building which Austin W. Warr is having built on Main Street next to the telephone building [210 W Main]. The building will be 2 stories high 25 by 75 feet in size and finished after the manner of the telephone building. The first floor will be used for storeroom purposes while the second floor will be divided into good offices. The building will cost about $8000 and will be rushed to completion with all possible haste. As soon as the Warr building is completed and the butcher shop is able to move into the storeroom the present frame building which is occupied by the Abel Bros Meat Market will be moved out and Phillip Laux who owns the lot will have a 2 story 25 by 90 foot stone building erected. He will also put a second story on the stone building now occupied by the Kearny saloon. When all the new buildings are completed the block between Third and Second avenues will be one of the handsomest in the city.” (“Fergus County Democrat,” August 23, 1904)

“A. W. Warr put up a building next to the telephone building and adjoining the Laux building in which the Shamrock Saloon is located… At the same time Phillip Laux put in a new building in place of the old frame structure occupied by the Central Meat Market and also added a story to his other building next to it. The meat market will occupy the new Laux building. The cost of it was $3000. John Laux had the contract for [both] buildings.” (“Fergus County Argus,” December 28, 1904).

“Johnny Abel returned Friday night from Saint Paul to which city he went about 2 weeks ago for the purpose of purchasing a complete set of furniture for the butcher shop of Abel brothers. He says that he bought some most up-to-date goods which will be along with in a couple of weeks and will be installed in the new Laux building which will by that time be completed.” (“Fergus County Democrat,” January 31, 1905).

“The Laux building occupied by the Abel brothers with an up to date set of office rooms on the second floor is a very handsome edifice while the Warr building is another first class structure. The local land office has just been established on the lower floor of this building which has been fitted up especially for that purpose in a manner which will equal any office building in the state. The outside office is fitted with hard finished birch counters in oak partitions. A large vault has been built in the rear end of the room, while an extra room in which the [land] contest cases will be heard has been partitioned off in the rear end of the building.”  (“Fergus County Democrat,” April 4, 1905).

“The [Laux] building functioned primarily as a saloon in its early years. Henry Osmers operated the Blue Goose Saloon at 216 West Main from 1910 until 1918 when Montana officially went dry. In 1916 Edward Bisbee open the Big Bear Saloon at 214 1/2 West main. When prohibition forced the closure of all saloons, the Laux building served as a billiards parlor, a clothing store, and a rooming house until the end of prohibition in 1933. The Acme rooming house boasting, “Baths, Steam Heat, thoroughly modern and convenient” operated upstairs from 1916 until 1975. The Empire Cafe opened in the mid-1940s.” (Lewistown Preservation Office interpretation sign).

The Warr Building (212 W. Main) and the Laux Building (214-216 W. Main)
were built in 1904-1905. The Montana Building (built 1916) was not yet
built next to them on the left in the photo. To the right side of the
Warr Building is part of the telephone office that was built earlier.
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