The University of Montana's Oval.

Back in 1908, the University District didn’t exist, though University Avenue had been carved through the Missoula Valley prairie.

The valley was largely undeveloped back then, given a few iconic structures, including the University of Montana’s Main Hall and the Oval, already ringed with trees.

But in the history of UM, 1908 comes relatively late. Black-and-white photos snapped as early as 1898 show the Oval in all its distinction. It shows up in Professor Frederick Scheuch’s campus plan of 1895.

In the years that have passed, the Oval has seen its ups and downs. It stood as a backdrop to 500 members of the Student Army Training Corps during World War I, and it was open to vehicles until the 1950s.

American elms were planted around the Oval in 1917. Most have since died and been replaced. Brick laid down on Higgins Avenue in 1912 was taken up in 1981 to create a walking path inside the Oval.

Together, the brick-lined paths, statuary and green space have helped earn UM the distinction as one of the most beautiful campuses in the U.S.

Take a tour of Missoula’s Icons and enjoy the ride! Visit mountainline.com for route maps and schedules #missoulamoves

Reporter Martin Kidston can be reached at 523-5260, or at martin.kidston@missoulian.com.

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