Livingston’s town plan from 1882 was all about the railroad, with the adjacent Yellowstone River an afterthought, at best an impediment since it defined the south end of town. So far from the tracks to be of little worth to anyone, few paid it any attention. 100 years later when I am considering the town for the state historic preservation, I too was all about the railroad and the metropolitan corridor of which it was part. I paid no attention to the river. The town’s schools were on this end, but they were “modern” so did not capture my attention.
Consequently I missed a bit part of the town’s story, the effort to reform the landscape and create public space during the New Deal era. The Works Progress Administration (WPA) transformed this part of town from 1935 to 1938 expanding an earlier public park into today’s Sacajawea Park.
The agency built a diversion dam on the river to create the lagoon for Sacajawea Lake, and added a lovely rustic-styled stone bridge. Later improvements came in 1981.
As in many other communities across the nation, the agency also added a modern outdoor swimming pool, and bathhouse. Plus it built a public amphitheater–several of these still exist in Montana.
The major addition, however, was the large combination Civic Center and National Guard Armory, an Art Deco-styled building that cost an estimated $100,000 in 1938. It too survives and is in active use by the community.
Tourists now come to this area more often than in the past due to additions made during the Lewis and Clark Bicentennial in the early 21st century. The park is part of the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail.
Local sources funded the additional of an interpretive memorial and statue in honor of the July 1806 stop at this place by Sacajawea and her baby Pomp. Mary Michael is the sculptor. The result is a reinvigorated
public space, not only due to the history markers about Lewis, Clark, Sacajawea, and Pomp, but also the obvious community pride in this connection between town, river, and mountains.