The Power Building, Lewistown: Update

IMG_9992.JPG

The two-story, cut-stone Power Mercantile Company building in Lewistown is a foundational business for the town, and for central Montana.  T. C. Power was a very significant pioneer entrepreneur in Montana, and this stone building, built by Croatian immigrants to Lewistown in 1901, served his mercantile and ranching interests in the area.  Standing in the heart of the downtown historic district, across the street from the mammoth classical styled First National Bank, the Power building has served Lewistown in many ways over the last 100 years, but when I visited last in 2013, the Reids department store had closed and the building was up for lease.

IMG_9989.JPG

This week’s Great Falls Tribune, however, had the exciting news that the American Prairie Reserve, which already had acquired Power’s famous PN Ranch at the confluence of the Judith and Missouri rivers, had purchased the Power Mercantile Company Building to serve as its future National Discovery Center, a downtown visitor center/museum.  This adaptive reuse project will spur heritage tourism, recreational tourism, and economic development in Lewistown, linking the town and beautiful landscapes to the north along the Missouri River.

IMG_9989.JPG – Version 2

I applaud Lewistown for the vision of having preserved this historic mercantile building until the right time for a new use, and new generations of service to the city.  This story, compared to what happened in another Montana city to the west, is yet another demonstration of how Montanans can build new futures from the built environment of their distinguished past.

 

Roundup Montana: A town with a plan and on the move

One of the most exciting results of my recent work on the historic landscape of Montana is how many residents contact me with developments–both good and bad but mostly good–as they use their past and historic built environments to build new futures for their families and community.  Such an update just arrived last week from Roundup, the seat of Musselshell County.

roundup schoolA resident reported on the towns decision to join the Main Street program and how a community partnership effort had been formed to guide the process, assuring me that the wonderful historic Roundup school would find a new future as a multi-purpose and use facility.  That update has spurred me to share more images from this distinctive Montana town that I have enjoyed visiting for over 30 years.

Roundup stem of TAs I discussed in my earlier large posting on Roundup, it is both a railroad town on the historic mainline of the Milwaukee Road and a highway town, with a four-lane Main Street defining the commercial district. It is less than a hour’s drive north of Billings, Montana’s largest urban area.  But nestled at the junction of U.S. 12 and U.S. 87, Roundup is a totally different world from booming Billings.

Roundup lodgeRoundup store  You see the difference if how false frame stores and lodge buildings from the first years of the town’s beginnings still stand, and how the commercial district is pockmarked with more stately early 20th century brick commercial blocks, whether two stories high or a mere one-story. Yet the architectural details tell you the community had ambitions.  It

roundup 119 Main

was just that hard times came in the 1920s and stayed awhile, despite the best efforts of New Deal reformers who helped to fund the county’s magnificent Art Deco-inspired Musselshell County Courthouse at the end of the depression decade,

roundup courthouse

The bankruptcy of the Milwaukee Road in the early 1980s did not help recovery, and it was soon after that I found myself in Roundup for the first time in 1984.

roundup elevatorI found a place then, and still today, that was proud of its past and of its community.  I visited and spoke at the county museum, which was housed in the old Catholic school and included one of county’s first homestead cabins moved to the school grounds. The nearby town park and fairgrounds (covered in an earlier post) helped to highlight just how beautiful the Musselshell River valley was at Roundup.

Roundup museum

Roundup river

Community pride was evident in the well-kept homes of the downtown neighborhood, and I have already posted on the architecturally important modernist Catholic church.

roundup jailThen the public buildings–the school, the courthouse, and even the classically tinged county jail shown above–added to the town’s impressive heritage assets. Of course some buildings I ignored in the 1980s but find compelling today–like in the riverstone lined posts of the modernist Wells Fargo Bank, and the effective and efficient look of city hall.

roundup bank

 

roundup City Hall

Yes when you take a close look at Roundup–the possibilities are there, as the new community partnership effort proves.  I can’t help but encourage this grassroots effort.  Good job Roundup, and I will be there soon enough to grab a float at the A&W and explore how a community moves forward with their impressive past as a foundation.

roundup A&W drive in

Finding new uses for old landmarks: lessons from Red Lodge

Roosevelt school, red lodge

In my Montana travels over the last two years, one of the most interesting, and potentially impactful, projects I encountered was in Red Lodge, where the Red Lodge Area Community Foundation is leading efforts to revitalize the historic Roosevelt School. When, earlier in the decade, the National Trust for Historic Preservation announced its interest in the one-room and rural schools of the Treasure State, I worried somewhat that the larger historic schools in small towns and county seats might be forgotten.  Red Lodge showed me that was not the case.

IMG_3516 (1)

I attended a historic preservation conference there in the summer of 2016, where the Montana Preservation Alliance used the school’s historic gymnasium as the conference hall–a simple yet very effective conversion.  Gyms had always been community gathering spots, for basketball obviously but also for all sorts of events.  There is always a comfortable feel to these spaces.

IMG_3505

My surprise came when we toured the building.  I thought that due to the name Roosevelt, that the school had been yet another of the dozens of schools constructed in Montana during the “New Deal” of President Franklin D. Roosevelt during the depression decade of the 1930s.  Wrong–it was a 1921 building, named for former President Theodore Roosevelt, who was the champion of national parks and the open rugged west that Red Lodge was very much part of.  Charles Suiter was the architect.  He had twenty plus years earlier worked with the much more famous Montana architect John Paulsen as the contractor for the landmark Montana Hall at Montana State University in Bozeman.

So, the overall context for the school was different from what I had gathered in the past.  Here was an early 1920s community statement by Red Lodge leaders–the homestead boom had already busted, and tough times were just ahead for Montanans but the community then felt it was time for a modern building, with well-lit interiors and well-placed blackboards that did not glare in the sunlight.  And throughout the building there

roosevelt school red lodge 4

Roosevelt school red lodge 2were so many intact details from the time of construction–built-in storage spaces, private restroom stalls, when hallway clocks ticking down the minutes in a day–the place was like a time capsule.

IMG_3506 (1)

And then there was the third floor masterpiece, the combination library and performance hall.  Classical pilasters framed the stage and added touches of class and seriousness to the space.  Here was a public building that spoke to community ambitions but also community pride.

roosevelt school, red lodge 5Intimate spaces, classroom spaces, grand public spaces.  The Roosevelt School meant too much to be left to the wrecking ball, and the progress the community foundation is making there is reassuring:  once again smart, effective adaptive reuse can turn a building in a sustainable heritage asset for the town. It’s worth checking out, and supporting.  And it is next door to one of the state’s amazing throwback 1960s roadside

Yodeler Motel Red Lodge

experience, The Yodeler Motel, built in 1964.  Step back in time but also look at the heritage-infused future of Red Lodge:  a worthwhile stop indeed.

IMG_3513

 

Helena”s Odd Fellows Cemetery

MT Lewis and Clark County Helena Odd Fellows Cemetery 4Standing quietly next to Forestvale Cemetery is Helena’s Odd Fellows Cemetery, formed in 1895 when several local lodges banded together to create a cemetery for its members.  Most visitors to Forestvale probably think of this cemetery as just an extension of Forestvale but it is very much its own place, with ornamental plantings and an understated arc-plan to its arrangement of graves.

MT Lewis and Clark County Helena Odd Fellows Cemetery 3

MT Lewis and Clark County Helena Odd Fellows Cemetery 6

 

MT Lewis and Clark County Helena Odd Fellows Cemetery 2Compared to Forestvale, there are only a handful of aesthetically imposing grave markers, although I found the sole piece of cemetery furniture, the stone bench above, to be a compelling reminder of the reflective and commemorative purpose of the cemetery.

MT Lewis and Clark County Helena Odd Fellows CemeteryOne large stone monument, erected in the 1927 by the Rebekah lodges (for female members) of the town, marks the burial lot for IOOF members who died in Helena’s Odd Fellows Home, a building that is not extant.  The memorial is a reminder of the types of social services that fraternal lodges provided their members, and how fraternal lodges shaped so much of Helena’s social and civic life in the late 19th and early twentieth century.  Helena’s Odd Fellows Cemetery is a significant yet overlooked contributor to the town’s and county’s historic built environment.

MT Lewis and Clark County Helena Odd Fellows Cemetery 5

 

Rialto Theater, Bozeman: success!

Gallatin Co Bozeman Main St historic district 32

As I traveled the Big Sky Country in the first half of this decade and revisited its many historic places and landscapes, one place I worried about was the Rialto Theater in Bozeman.  In the early 1984, when I was carrying out the statewide survey for the state historic preservation plan, residents and officials in Bozeman proudly showed off one of the city’s first significant preservation renovations.  The Rialto, which was once a 1908 post office from the town’s homesteading boom transformed into a movie theater in 1924, was renovated and updated in 1982.  That successful project, we all thought in the early 1980s, proved the power of historic preservation.  Then I heard twenty years later, in 2005, that the theater closed.  I visited Bozeman in 2006 and looked at the shuttered building but everyone then thought the reopening was just around the corner.  I was surprised, and concerned, in 2014 when I returned to Bozeman, and found the theater still closed, but a campaign to save it was underway (see the image above).

IMG_5472

I am happy to report that the campaign proved successful.  When I returned yet again to Bozeman in May 2018, the theater had reopened earlier in the year.  The return of its flashy Art Deco-influenced marquee adds immeasurably to the architecture of downtown Bozeman and its many events help to keep the city’s downtown vibe going strong.  Once again, the Rialto is showing residents and visitors how historic preservation makes a difference in one of Montana’s most rapidly changing places.

Helena’s Resurrection Cemetery (1908)

IMG_4389

Dominated by the monumental Cruse family mausoleum, Resurrection Cemetery has been a Montana Avenue landmark for over 100 years.  It is not the first Catholic cemetery in Helena–the original one was nearer the yards of the Northern Pacific Railroad and was closed c. 1906-1908, when Resurrection Cemetery was under development.  The first cemetery became abandoned and many markers and crypts were not removed until the late 1940s and 1950s.  Then in the 1970s, the city finished the process and turned the cemetery into Robinson Park, where a small interpretive marker still tells the story of the first Catholic cemetery.

IMG_4381

IMG_4390

Resurrection is a beautifully planned cemetery, with separate sections, and standardized markers, for priests and for the sisters, as shown above.  Their understated tablet stones mark their service to God and add few embellishments.  Not so for the merchant and political elite buried in the historic half of Resurrection Cemetery.  “Statement” grave markers abound, such as the Greek Revival temple-styled mausoleum for the Larsen family, shown below.

IMG_4375

IMG_4376

An elaborate cross marks the family plot of Martin Maginnis, an influential and significant merchant and politician from the early decades of the state’s history (but who is largely forgotten today).  Nearby is the family plot for one of Maginnis’ allies in central Montana and later in Helena, T. C. Power.

IMG_4383

Joseph K. Toole, a two-time Governor of Montana, is also buried with a large but not ornate stone marker, shown below. Former senator Thomas Walsh is nearby but what is

IMG_4377

most interesting about the Walsh family plot is the striking Arts and Crafts design for his

IMG_4385

IMG_4386

daughter Elinor Walsh, who died as a young woman.  I have not yet encountered a marker similar to hers in all of Montana.

IMG_4387Another compelling marker with statuary is that of another young woman rendered in marble, a memorial to James and Catherine Ryan.

IMG_4380

Thomas Cruse, who struck it rich with the Drumlummon mine at Marysville, had no qualms about proclaiming his significance and the grandest cemetery memorial in Montana bears his name.  Cruse already had put up at least one-third of the funding for the magnificent High Gothic-styled St. Helena Cathedral in downtown Helena.  At Resurrection, Cruse (who died in late 1914) was laid to rest in a majestic classical-style family mausoleum where his wife and his daughter were also interred (both proceeded Cruse in death).  The Cruse mausoleum is the centerpiece of Resurrection’s design.

IMG_4392

But the monuments for the rich and famous at Resurrection are the exceptions, not the rule.  In the historic half of the cemetery, most markers are rectangular tablet types.  The cemetery also has a separate veterans section.  IMG_4373

IMG_4372

Forestvale: Helena’s Victorian Cemetery

MT Lewis and Clark County Helena Forestvale Cemetery 51

Its castellated Gothic gate standing silently a few blocks off of Montana Avenue south of downtown Helena, Forestvale Cemetery was established, at the end of a trolley line, in 1890.  Montana has just become a state and Helena would soon enough become the permanent state capitol.  The cemetery is the final resting place for town and state founders, pioneers, and the hundreds of workers, merchants, ranchers, and mechanics who shaped Helena’s history for over 100 years.

MT Lewis and Clark County Helena Forestvale Cemetery

As the interpretive marker at the entrance cemetery notes, the cemetery came into public ownership in 1991 and has been listed in the National Register of Historic Places.  It “was designated as a ‘Rural Park,’ a place to walk through Montana history.”

MT Lewis and Clark County Helena Forestvale Cemetery 24

I would agree fully with that assertion.  When I moved to Montana in 1981 my first abode was the Chessman Flats, a Victorian row house converted to apartments next to the Original Governor’s Mansion.  I soon sought out Chessman’s final resting place, a sizable family plot shown above.  I also discovered the graves of many famous late 19th century Montanans who I was just learning about.  Samuel Hauser, the banker and early territorial governor, is buried here in another family plot.

MT Lewis and Clark County Helena Forestvale Cemetery 27

MT Lewis and Clark County Helena Forestvale Cemetery 28

The Fergus family was another name I recalled, especially with the proud designation of “Pioneers 1862”.  Several markers, like that for the Ecler family below,  note the final resting place of that first generation of settlers in the Big Sky Country.  Nor is Hauser the

MT Lewis and Clark County Helena Forestvale Cemetery 10

only governor to be buried here.  Tim Babcock, a late 20th century governor, is buried with a marker that outlines the state of Montana, a fitting tribute.

MT Lewis and Clark County Helena Forestvale Cemetery 31

The Nicolas family plot is one of the view, compared to the many at Benton Avenue Cemetery, to be outlined by a low metal fence.  But Forestvale also has a handful of the distinctive hollowed press metal grave markers, like the flamboyant combination of classical and Victorian motifs of the Leslie family marker.

MT Lewis and Clark County Helena Forestvale Cemetery 18

MT Lewis and Clark County Helena Forestvale Cemetery 5

MT Lewis and Clark County Helena Forestvale Cemetery 8

The pressed metal markers for the Leslies are just the beginning of the Victorian funerary art represented at Forestvale.  As shown below there is the Richardsonian Romanesque grave house memorial for the Brown family and the cut-off limbs monument for Mary Love Stoakes, who died in 1889.

Beautiful statuary is reflected in the grave marker for Lillian Stoakes Cullen, who died in 1897.

 

MT Lewis and Clark County Helena Forestvale Cemetery 21

But as is obvious in the background of the photographs above, the great majority of the grave markers at Forestvale are much more restrained, rectangular slabs of rock, respectful but minus the Victorian flourish.

MT Lewis and Clark County Helena Forestvale Cemetery 4

At the rear of the cemetery markers are missing, or are small and unadorned.  In the far corner is a later memorial to at least 22 children who died at the Montana Children’s Home and Hospital from 1917 to 1932.

MT Lewis and Clark County Helena Forestvale Cemetery 36

The cemetery’s interpretive marker noted that at Forestvale “There was never any prejudice as to creed or color.” That is not true, outside the north fence of the cemetery is a grave yard for Chinese residents of Helena.  This section is not well kept, and judging from the number of depressions, the number of people buried here could be sizable.

MT Lewis and Clark County Helena Forestvale Cemetery 41

MT Lewis and Clark County Helena Forestvale Cemetery 44

MT Lewis and Clark County Helena Forestvale Cemetery 42

MT Lewis and Clark County Helena Forestvale Cemetery 45

A summer 2018 story in the Helena Independent Record told of a new local effort to identify the number of graves in this section and to begin a process to right a wrong.  Certainly the present condition is unacceptable, and hopefully steps will finally take place to place the “Chinese section” into the publicly owned and maintained cemetery.