In Praise of The Rocking R Bar

The Bozeman Chronicle has HAD a nice memorial to the Rocking ‘R Bar, which was destroyed in the explosion that gutted East Main Street on the 5th of March.

For more than a century, one building, near the corner of Bozeman Avenue and Main Street, has been a fixture of the town’s watering holes.  Historic photographs of downtown Bozeman depict a bar at this location as far back as the 1890s, and, according to local folklore, it’s always been known as the Rocking ’R Bar.

The Rocking ‘R was the kind of Third Place that a community needs to, well, build community.  I never spent alot of time there myself, but it was a place that townies and college kids could gather and let off steam.  It’s the sort of place that you can bring your parents to before the Homecoming Football game, then go back with your roomies that night for a hoot and a holler.

Urban planners love Third Places, but we seem to hate bars.  We love places where people can gather informally, socialize, build relationships.  We hate places that are loud and rowdy and obnoxious.  We carefully separate uses, require minimum parking ratios and rigid Food : Liquor sales ratios.  Then we wonder why we don’t have neighborhood taverns even though we’ve purposefully regulated the places into sprawldom.

Sometimes we’re too smart for our own good.  Raise a glass and sing praises of ancient days.

[Corrected when @BozChron took off the elink to the article 😦  This blog has a good sketch of the facades destroyed. ]

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2 Comments

  1. catfc said,

    17 March 2009 at 03:39

    You hit it on the head for me. The homiest bars I ever went to were in Green Bay and Detroit…because you could see people of all ages their. Out west, with the exception of Honky Tonks, bars seem to be segregated by age. Pathetic bar for old drunks next to an even more pathetic bar full of young singles in training for old drunk-dom. Then there are the bars for professionals. They all feel so exploitive.

  2. JC said,

    17 March 2009 at 17:45

    Fort Collins and Champaign-Urbana both seemed large enough that townies and co-eds didn’t have to mix. At UIUC, we had Campustown, and they had the rest of town. Now and then a few brave souls would venture off-campus (http://newstudents.dailyillini.com/2008/07/23/bar-options-continue-past-campus/) but it wasn’t the usual.

    The one positive for campus bars is most are close enough that campus you don’t have to drive. Really, any good neighborhood tavern isn’t any good without a walkable neighborhood.

    So lift a Guinness tonight, but leave the keys at home, lads and lassies.


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