Over nine decades of meals, laughter, memories and music came to a screeching halt in the early morning hours of Thursday, Sept. 30, when LaHood Park Steakhouse went up in flames.
"It happened so fast, we couldn't do anything," LaHood employee and tenant Stephanie Adams said. "We grabbed the laundry basket of clean clothes I had just washed, our dogs, some sweaters, and that's it."
Built by Shadan LaHood in 1928, the property transitioned from a general store to a post office, then a hotel and restaurant. LaHood's was the origination of what is now Rockin' the Rivers, then begun as Rockin' the Rockies by owner Steve Wendell. Then it became a Montana legend: one of the best steakhouses around.
Just before 5 a.m. on Sept. 30, Adams said she heard what she thought were items being dropped on the floor in the restaurant area, which was directly above her downstairs apartment. Thinking it was a produce delivery, which delivered that early, she tried to go back to sleep but something felt off. She opened the basement door to find the walkway filled with smoke. The west side of the building was on fire. Scrambling to Phil Lalich's camper onsite, Adams woke the owner. At 4:56 a.m. the Whitehall Fire Department was alerted—and by then the building's roof was completely engulfed in flames.
Adams and her boyfriend lost everything. Lalich, who is in the process of building a home and had all his personal belongings stored beneath the building, also lost everything except what he had in his camper at the time. Lalich has since announced he plans to rebuild the steakhouse.
Whitehall Assistant Fire Chief Colton Howser said that once his team arrived, the building was a loss. The Montana State Fire Marshall declared the fire's origination and cause undetermined.
A week after the fire, Adams said the community has provided much comfort and needed items. She and her partner have purchased a camper, as housing in the area is at a premium, and have received many donations of home goods. Currently they are looking for kitchenware and bedding. A donation drop off has been established at the Whitehall Ledger office and is available during regular business hours. Adams also said they are seeking referrals of who to have side the camper in preparation for winter. Anyone with suggestions can contact Adams at (406) 202-8973.
In December 2001, a fire destroyed the hotel portion of LaHood. That fire was also undetermined in cause and origination.