Closeup of central Missoula, Montana
The arrival of the Northern Pacific Railway in 1883 led to a housing boom along the tracks, particularly on the northern side where many of the railway workers would reside. When the Higgins Avenue Bridge was replaced in 1893, they debated whether the bridge should continue southwest toward the Bitterroot Valley as it had earlier, or due south. Attorneys W. M. Bickford and W. J. Stephens had already laid out plots of land five years earlier for what they hoped would be a new town of "South Missoula". The streets there were perpendicular to the Bitterroot Wagon Road while Judge Hiram Knowles who owned the land just south of the river preferred the north-south plan and did not want to become part of South Missoula.
The result was a 7×14–block area along the west side of Higgins Avenue commonly referred to as the Slant Streets centered along what is now Stephens Avenue.