Horses dominated early Whitefish’s transportation needs and were essential to the small farms and dairies that surrounded the early township.

   Harry Hotel was the town’s first blacksmith, who managed to keep his blacksmith’s shop going into the 40s. Hotel is pictured in the picture on the right, in his blacksmith’s shop, the building that houses the Whitefish Liquor Store. Hotel shoed horses and created decorative ironwork out of the building (note the horseshoes hanging from the rafters.) His son, Fred, followed him in the business. But by the 40s automobiles were far more important than horses, and the blacksmith’s shop was sold and transformed, perhaps appropriately, into a car salesroom, Harlow-Beck Chevrolet.

   The first automobile came to Whitefish thanks to local mercantile owner, Mr. H.T. Senay, who imported the automobile from Spokane, Wash. Residents eagerly awaited his arrival, and the Whitefish Pilot even covered the event, which was delayed to breakdowns. The not-overly-expectant coverage was clear in the article:

   “Mrs. H.T. Senay returned from a visit to Spokane last Friday. While there, Mr. Senay purchased an automobile and started to drive it from Spokane, but on a account of a number of bridges being burned out by the forest fires, he had to load it onto a car and ship to Plains. While unloading the machine broke a clutch and had to send...for a new part. When this arrived it was not the right one.... He is expected to come driving in here now most any time.”

   By 1912, two more automobiles were acquired within Whitefish city limits—a Ford and a Studebaker. Horses were terrified and the son of the Ford owner, Frank Trippet, was injured when driving too fast to get a doctor (he was reportedly traveling 20 m.p.h.)

   In 1914, the first car dealership, Hudson, Studebaker and Overland, came to town—supplementing car sales with tires and accessories. By 1919, Akey’s Ford Garage was a mainstay in town.

   Roads were a major concern to early day automobilists (as they were called) and in 1915 a two-dollar assessment fee was levied on all automobile owners in Montana—with much of the monies set aside for road construction. 

    It would be many more years before Whitefish roads were paved, but not before local supporters of improvements backed efforts with several annual fundraising events—dubbed ‘Good Roads Days.” Gravel and labor was donated to patch trouble spots and dances were held to raise money—one dance netted $125.

   In 1919 the first street lights were installed—three in all—on each side of the block of Central Avenue between First and Third.