Author and anthropologist Nikki Manning began researching what lies under Missoula’s streets when she chose the topic for her master’s thesis at The University of Montana.
The goal of the Missoula Historic Underground Project (MHUP) was to validate “the stories of ‘Chinese Tunnels’ and underground activity by the Chinese” through carefully executed research. Could the investigation prove the existence of underground brothels, opium dens, liquor caches during Prohibition, secret doors for illegal deliveries, tunnels to avoid being seen above ground, and more?
The work plan narrowed the research to eight sites, and became a multi-class collaboration between the UM Department of Anthropology and the Missoula Historic Preservation Commission.
Steam tunnels, crawl spaces, damp basements with sealed-off doors, tiny closets with no clue as to their function, and more curiosities came to light through this fascinating investigation.
Drawings and photographs throughout the book illustrate the progress, which the author tells us is by no means done.
Manning completed a master’s degree in anthropology with a concentration in cultural heritage and urban archaeology. She serves on the boards of Preserve Historic Missoula and The Missoula Historic Preservation Commission.
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– Judy Shafter