Anaconda’s recreational culture

In the first half of the 20th century, Anaconda gained its reputation as a hard-working town, whether you toiled at the smelter, the pottery works, the railroad, or any of the many small businesses and shops across the city. With that hard work came the need

Washoe Theaterfor places to rest, relax, and enjoy the precious hours away from the workplace.  So much has changed in Anaconda since the closing of the smelter in the early 1980s–but the town’s distinctive places for recreation and relaxation remain, a big part of the reason Anaconda is one of my favorite places in Montana.

2011 MT Deer Lodge County Anaconda 017Let’s start with the magnificent Art Deco marvel of the Washoe Theater. Designed in 1930 by B. Marcus Priteca but not finished and opened until 1936, the theater has stayed in operation ever since.  It is remarkably intact, especially when owners refused to follow the multi-screen craze of the 1970s and kept the lobby and massive screen

intact.  It was a favorite jaunt in the 1980s to go to Anaconda, take in a movie at the Washoe and then cocktails at the Club Moderne. The interior design is attributed to Hollywood designer Nat Smythe.

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Anaconda Washoe Theater screenA drink after the movie: still happens with regularity in Anaconda, due to the plethora of neighborhood bars, from the Anaconda Bar to the Thompson Bar. The range of sizes and styling speaks to the different experiences offered by these properties.

The Locker Room Bar has a classic Art Deco look with its green glass and glass block entrance while the JFK Bar documents its date of construction while the rock veneer on concrete is undeniably a favorite construction technique of the 1960s.

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If not the bars, then you could retreat to your fraternal lodge or veterans group.  Fraternal lodges were everywhere once in Anaconda and several historic ones still survive.  The Croatian Hall, unassuming in its size and ornament, is one of the most interesting lodges on the east side, in the old “Goosetown” working-class part of Anaconda.  Sam Premenko established the club in Anaconda’s early years.

IMG_1554The Elks Club in the heart of downtown is a totally different statement, with its sleek 1960s modernist facade over an earlier turn of the century Victorian styled brick building reflecting a more prosperous and larger membership.

American Legion hall, 3rd and CedarWith its glass block entrances and windows, the American Legion lodge seems like another lounge, but the American Eagle mural says otherwise.

The Copper Bowl is a wonderful mid-20th century reminder of both the raw material that fueled Anaconda.  From the highway sign–a great piece of roadside architecture itself–you can see the slag piles from the smelter.  Bowling, so popular once, is disappearing across the country, except in Anaconda, where two different set of lanes remained in business–at least in 2012.

Cedar Park Bowling Lanes, N sideIf not bowling, why not read a book.  At least that was the motivation behind Progressive reformers and their initiative to create “free” (meaning no membership fees) public libraries at the turn of the 20th century.  Anaconda has one of the state’s earliest and most architecturally distinctive libraries in the Hearst Free Library.

Funded by Phoebe Hearst (mother of William Randolph Hearst), the library reflected a Renaissance Revival style in red brick designed by San Francisco architect F. S. Van Trees.  It opened in 1898 and served as an inspiring public space, part library, part public meeting space, part art museum.

IMG_1511Another Progressive-era institution is Washoe Park, established by the copper company and home to the first fish hatchery in the state.  Washoe Park was a place for outdoor recreation, with ball fields, picnic areas, and amusement attractions.  It also was home for the town’s baseball field and its historic grandstands and refreshment

center still serve those who come to see.  The Anaconda Copper Company had the diamond and grandstand built c. 1949 and the first teams to play were organized by the city’s different fraternal lodges.  Besides the classic look of the grandstand nearby

is the refreshment/ recreation center, a building in the Rustic style, an architectural type associated with parks of all sorts in the first half of the 20th century.

IMG_1517New renovations at the park have been underway, improving trails, the hatchery, and the outdoor experience plus adding public interpretation at appropriate places.  The park is being re-energized but respect still shown its early elements, such as the historic Alexander Glover cabin, built c. 1865 and identified as the oldest residence in Anaconda, which was moved into the park as an interpretive site, early, c. 1920.

IMG_1523Another outdoor recreational space that has been receiving renovation is the historic Mitchell Stadium complex, a New Deal project of the Works Progress Administration from 1938-1939.  The stadium, designed to give the high school modern facilities for football and track and field, is quite the place, retaining so much of its original understated Art Deco styling.

Mitchell Stadium, 1938-9 from Mt CarmelUnlike Washoe Park, here was a new public space, in keeping with the New Dealers’ faith in recreation and community, that was not a creation of the copper company for adult workers but for high school athletes.

It also is a property that I totally overlooked in the 1984-85 survey.  True it was not 50 years old then but it was a WPA project that deserved close scrutiny as part of the larger federal effort to improve high school education and public spaces.

Mitchell Stadium, through fence

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Certainly one of the most interesting conversions of industrial landscape into recreation landscape–on a whole another scale from the rails to trails movement–is how the grounds of the original smelter site at Anaconda have been transformed into a modern golf course. Rare is the opportunity to play a round but also walk around and consider public interpretation of a blasted out mining property.

IMG_1507But even on the links of this innovative adaptive reuse project you cannot escape the overwhelming presence of the copper company stack, and mounds of devastation it left behind.  Here is an appropriate view that sums up the company influence on the distinctive place of Anaconda.

 

The Stack and the City: Anaconda

Anaconda Not RP3In my work across Montana in 1984-85 there was no more imposing structure than the smelter stack and works at Anaconda, in Deer Lodge County.  The image above was one I used in the 20 plus listening sessions I had across the state in 1984, gathering perspectives and recommended properties for the state historic preservation plan.  I used the stack because the smelter had just closed–and how this chapter in the state’s mining history could be preserved was on many minds.

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Whenever I visited the western part of the state in subsequent years, a stop in Anaconda was a must, to see if the stack was still there and what maybe was the latest of this modern landmark, this overwhelming symbol of corporate power from the early 20th century.  Some might recall the visitor center that existed there in the mid-1980s.

Club Moderne Anaconda Deer Lodge Co. MT

The stack and its fascinating impact on the landscape wasn’t the only reason I often stopped in Anaconda in the 30 years since the survey.  There was that far different place, the Club Moderne Tavern.When I traveled the state in 1984-1985 this jewel of mid-1930s modern design was not listed in the National Register of Historic Places–Mike Koop of the state office soon took care of that after I left–and now most of Anaconda is included within a massive National Historic Landmark district about Butte-Anaconda and the copper mine culture of the 20th century.  I want to explore the layers of history, and how heritage development have shaped both towns over 30 years, in a series of posts, beginning with my work in Anaconda in 2011-12.

IMG_1649The Washoe Stack is one of the state’s most dominant man-made environments.  For like the massive dams and reservoirs at Hungry Horse, Canyon Creek, and Fort Peck, there is the massiveness of the structure itself, and the thousands of surrounding acres impacted by the property.  Unlike the lakes created by the dams of the first half of the 20th century, however, the stack left devastation in its wake, not recreation, not rebirth.

IMG_1556The old gateway to the smelter introduces you to one lasting legacy of the stack–the tons of slag located along the highway leading in and out of Anaconda.  The huge pile of

IMG_1297seems like some sort of black sand that has washed up on a beach rather the environmental spoils left by 100 years or production.

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The Washoe Smelter almost 100 years ago was considered an engineering marvel. In my last piece of published Montana research, for the Drumlummon Institute’s special book on Butte and Anaconda, I wrote: “The Alphonis Chimney Construction Company built the Washoe Stock for the Anaconda Copper Mining Company in 1918. The stack is 585 feet high, 60 feet wide at the top with an interior diameter of 75 feet. Few industrial structures anywhere compare to it. The stack loomed over the company, its workers, its region, and its state.”

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Historian Laurie Mercier’s book on Anaconda has many valuable insights from local residents on what the stack means.  Bob Vine believed that the Company and God were all the same in Anaconda: “Everybody would get up in the morning and they look and see if there was smoke coming out of that stack and if there was, God was in his heaven and all was right with the world, and we knew we were going to have a paycheck.” (Mercier, Anaconda, p. 1)

IMG_1508In the 1980s, the Atlantic Richfield Corporation, a later owner of the Washoe works, announced the stack’s closing and possible demolition. A community-wide effort to save the stack was launched because, in the poetic words of local union activist Tom Dickson:
ARCO save that stack, touch not a single brick
Signify the livelihood that made Anaconda tick.
Still let it stand there stark against the sky,
Like a somewhat obscene gesture catching every eye. (Mercier, Anaconda, p. 217)

The toxic fumes from the stack infected thousands of acres, with the ironically named community of Opportunity, just north of the smelter works, bearing the brunt of the waste.  Community members continue to fight back for better cleanup of their damaged parks, yards, and businesses.  Indeed, it is still a moonscape around most of the smelter, and one wonders when that ever changes.

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Club Moderne was an oasis for me in Anaconda–an architectural landmark from the 1930s that still felt like stepping back in time, especially with a bartender so knowledgeable of the classic cocktails of mid-century.

IMG_0535That the place remained so intact in the early 1980s was impressive to me–that it remains that way 30 years later is a testament to local stewardship, and continued good times. The interior design of Art Deco details also remain to treat the eye and tempt

the drinking hand.  The place might not be as packed as in the heydays.  Anaconda’s population stood at just about 12,500 in 1930–just over 9,000 called Anaconda home in 2010.  But it, and the long lamented Copper Club (closed for years now) was why you came to Anaconda 30 years ago and spent a night–good food, good drink, and a chance

to experience one of the state’s most architecturally distinctive places.

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Last notes on Bozeman, for now

IMG_6984Few places in Montana, or for the nation for that matter, have benefited more from historic preservation and heritage development than Bozeman. To see a grain elevator complex find new uses and life in a century where grain elevators are typically a relic of a bygone era, tall hulking figures on the northern plains landscape, you discover that so much of our historic built environment can be re-imagined and put back into use.

No doubt Bozeman has changed markedly in this century–as the 2007 photo of the  Masonic Lodge and Army-Navy store (a place I frequented in the 1980s) as given way in 2015 to a bike and ski shop. Yet the landmark sign–with the horse rearing up as if to say what the hell is going on here–remains, a bit of the old cowtown of the past.

The fraternal lodges and the American Legion remaining on Main Street is an important link to a past when these organizations were central to the town’s growth and development–mainstays of community still today as their eagles fly high over the business district.

Gallatin Co Bozeman St James Episcopal ChurchThe town’s historic churches are other important anchors.  Listed in the National Register of Historic Places, St. James Episcopal Church is a distinguished statement of Gothic Revival executed in locally quarried sandstone designed by architect George Hancock of Fargo, North Dakota and built by local contractor James Campbell in 1890.

Gallatin Co Bozeman Theory Building 1Preservation efforts 30 years ago were focused on Main Street landmarks, with much success.  But the combination of preservation and adaptive reuse has moved into the town’s railroad corridor with similar positive results, and the number of historic neighborhoods have multiplied.

But work remains to be accomplished, as the 2015 effort to Raise the Rialto on Main Street shows–yet the number of partners involved also show how the audience for preservation has grown over the years.  Montana State University is a key component for the future too.  The university’s growth over a generation is astounding. Its

historic core has never looked better.  The question with the university is growth and how that is managed for the benefits of the students, but also the neighborhood and community that surrounds the university.  If growth deteriorates the community, then students lose–the lure of Bozeman and its many attractions become that much less.

Just as old and new MSU co-exist in harmony so too must historic Bozeman and every expanding MSU remain partners, in communication, and working together.

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Bozeman’s neighborhoods

The quality of Bozeman’s historic residential area between downtown and Montana State University was apparent even to me in 1984-85–someone at the time much more in tune with public buildings, industrial corridors, and downtown blocks than the mix of Victorian, vernacular, and 20th century revival styles that you find in Bozeman’s historic neighborhoods.

Gallatin Co Bozeman Willson Ave 5 Willson House

Everyone at the state historic preservation office was excited about the 1985 listing of the Burr Fisher House, designed in distinctive Spanish Colonial style by Bozeman architect Fred Willson, and wherever you looked you saw potential for many other properties, if not entire neighborhoods. Passing decades had left to neglect, perhaps not the wisest choices in treatments or tenants, but the potential remained to be tapped.

As indicated by the above before and after photos, with the 1985 image on the left and the 2015 image on the right, the last 30 years have been a time of transformation and restoration in many of the downtown neighborhoods.  Indeed, where there were no historic residential historic districts, there are now multiple districts, crisscrossing the city and creating a real foundation for community stability, pride, identity, and growth.

What I didn’t notice as well in 1985 as I did last year was the neighborhood’s imprint of Montana modernism from the New Deal era, represented so well by the Longfellow School

and its long horizontal massing and stylish entrance, to the contemporary styles of the 1960s into the 1970s, as seen below, in the Grand Avenue Catholic Center, and the contemporary style house on Story Avenue.

Gallatin Co Bozeman Grand Ave Catholic Center 1950s

Gallatin Co Bozeman Story Ave 1950s modern

These dwellings are truly just a taste of the richness and diversity of architectural statements in the town’s historic neighborhoods from Main Street to the university.  Bozeman’s successful neighborhood districts represent one of the lasting achievements of historic preservation and property owner engagement in Montana over the last 30 years.

 

Bozeman and two railroads

IMG_6990On Bozeman’s Main Street today there is a huge mural celebrating the arrival of the Northern Pacific Railroad in 1882. The impact of the railroad on the town was certainly a topic of interest in the 1984-85 survey, and one image included the existing Northern Pacific Railroad and adjoining grain elevators and other businesses reliant on the corridor.IMG_2659Today that same place has been transformed, through adaptive reuse, into a micro-brewery and restaurant–pretty good place too, and a great place in 2015 for me to get out of a persistent rain.  The Northern Pacific reached a deal with rancher Nelson Story in 1882 to build through his property but also provide a spur line to his existing mill operations.  From the beginning both the railroad and local entrepreneurs saw an agricultural future for Bozeman and Gallatin County.

A similar re-energized future has not yet happened for Bozeman’s historic Northern Pacific passenger depot.  The depot is a turn of the 20th century brick building that received a remodeling and expansion from Bozeman architect Fred Willson c. 1922 that turned it into a fashionable (and for the Northern Pacific line, a rare) example of Prairie style in a railroad building.

IMG_6976The depot and adjoining buildings have been designated as a historic district, with a pocket city park providing some new life to the area.  But this impressive building’s next life remains uncertain even as the city encourages creative solutions for the area.

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IMG_6973The c. 1922 depot is adequately moth-balled–the new roof has lots of life left–and as the city maintains it is structurally sound with key interior features intact.  Yet graffiti now mars one end of the building, and any building that is empty, especially in such a booming local economy, is cause for concern.

Why?  Because Bozeman has a tradition of tearing down historic railroad depots.  The images above from 1985 were of the town’s Milwaukee Road depot (c. 1907).  It was abandoned then, and I was concerned because so many of the railroad’s buildings had already disappeared across Montana, and because the arrival of the Milwaukee Road in Bozeman had launched an economic boom that shaped the town from 1907 to 1920.  In 2003, despite howls of protest, the building was demolished–a new use for it had never been found.

IMG_2660The same fate did not befell the Milwaukee Road’s other significant building in Bozeman, its concrete block warehouse, shown above in an 1985 image.  The open space, solid construction, and excellent location helped to ensure a much longer life for the building, which is now a building supplies store, with a repainted company sign adorning the elevations of the building.

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IMG_6993It is encouraging that the city recognizes the significance, and the possibilities, for the historic buildings along Bozeman’s railroad corridor.  Let’s hope that a permanent solution soon emerges for the empty Northern Pacific depot.

Bozeman’s historic districts after 30 years

Bozeman, the county seat of Gallatin County, was one of my favorite Montana towns during the 1984-1985 survey.  In some ways, it was still a cowtown, a commercial center for the hundreds of surrounding ranches in Gallatin County.  Yet it was also a college town–bars, music, cheap eats–as home to Montana State University.  In 1980 its population was over 21,000–thirty years later by 2010 it had boomed to over 37,000.  By the time I explored the town in 2015 for this new survey there were an estimated 42,000 residents, double of that of the 1980s town I had so enjoyed.

In 2007 then State Senator Lynda Bourque Moss stopped with me in Bozeman as we traveled from Billings to Helena where I was to speak to the governor’s task force on historic preservation, a meeting where the idea that I would recreate the survey of 1984-1985 first took root.  We stopped because she wanted to show me changes.  The four photos above showed me that yes, change had come, and in a big way to Bozeman.  The old Hallmark Store, which had moved into an earlier Stockman Bar, had become an upscale wine bar–a bit of California in the old cowtown of Bozeman–and when I next returned “Plonk” had added sidewalk seating.  We could have been in Aspen, at least Breckinridge, Colorado.

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Plonk and the sporting goods store, 2007

Bozeman had eagerly embraced the idea of historic districts in 1984-1985 as a way of revitalizing its downtown–so much had moved, or was going to move, out to the interstate exits.  John DeHaas at Montana State University had done so much to promote historic preservation in the 1970s and early 1980s.  A tradition and commitment were in place.  That much was clear when I surveyed the town and talked with residents and decision makers in 1984-85. The next several posts will explore the impact of those historic districts in the last 30 years, and offer observations on where next steps may go.

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Let’s start with what I saw as the public landmarks, and anchors, for downtown Bozeman in 1984-1985.  None was more important than the New Deal era Gallatin County High School, a striking Art Moderne design by Bozeman architect Fred Willson.  At that time, the “new” high school–which stood right by an earlier 20th century brick high school building–was not “old enough” to be considered for the National Register.  This building, like many of the state’s New Deal era legacy, has since been listed in the National Register.  And its grounds have been re-energized for all who walk by through the installation of a statue in honor of Malcolm Story, designed by Belgrade, Montana, artist Jim Dolan and placed in front of the earlier high school in 1995.

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Across Main Street is another public anchor, also funded by the New Deal in the late 1930s and also designed by Fred Willson:  the Art Deco classicism of the Gallatin County Courthouse.  Next door is the historic county jail, in a distinctive castellated Gothic style, which already had been converted into headquarters for the local historical society and county museum when I visited in 1984.  The facility still serves that purpose today.

A couple of blocks away from this public landscape core of Bozeman were additional public buildings, on side streets to Main Street.  Tracy and Babcock Streets had the town’s first two federal buildings/post office.  The 1915 neoclassical styled post office operated until 1964 and filled several community roles, including a turn in the 1990s hit movie A River Runs Through It until it became home to the non-profit HRDC after a complete renovation at the turn of the 21st century.  The building also has been enlivened by the addition of Jim Dolan’s statue in honor of Jeanette Ranklin, the first woman U.S. Congress representative, elected in 2010 from Montana.

Nearby is the mid-1960s Federal Building, a grand though boxy five-story building that symbolized the growth of the federal government and its impact on Gallatin County in the Cold War era while also adding a modernist design landmark to the city’s mix of Victorian and Classical architectural styles.  The earlier post office was given attention in my 1984-85; due to its date of construction and style, I paid no attention to the new Federal Building.  I didn’t repeat that mistake in 2015–the Federal Building of 1964-66 is one of the region’s most impressive statements of Montana modernism. and a much more recent Federal Building, which I ignored, for reasons of chronology that no longer apply in 2015.

The final public anchor was the Carnegie Library of 1902-1903, one of the better architectural expressions of Classical Revival style in the state, designed by architect Charles S. Haire, who shaped so much of state’s architecture in the early 20th century.

IMG_6895Then Senator Moss took me for a quick tour of its late 1990s renovation in 2007–its conversion into law offices respected both its original spaces and interior design.

 

That brings me to the four commercial anchors you encountered on Main Street in 1984-1985.  Two were massive buildings on either end of Main Street that defined the entire district–the Renaissance Revival style of Hotel Baxter, individually listed in the National Register in 1984, and the massiveness of the Victorian Romanesque style of The Bozeman Block, reminding everyone of the town’s railroad era.

In the middle of the district were two other key National Register properties–the Ellen Theatre, a wonderful Beaux Arts design scaled for the small town that it served in the 1920s.  Everyone thought that keeping a movie house/ theater downtown would help keep it alive at night.  The second building, the Union Hall, was both historically important but also could serve as a symbol of what downtown revitalization meant–a building need not

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be spectacular to serve an important role in the historic district.  The c. 1880s building belonged to the town’s boom during after the Northern Pacific Railroad arrived, and originally served as a brewery.  Here was where the Bozeman historic preservation office was located when I conducted the state historic preservation plan survey in 1984-85. Next let’s consider the town’s railroad resources, a focal point of mine 30 years ago.

 

 

The West Yellowstone Gateway

Gallatin Co West yellowstone Union Pacific Depot NRHD

When I think about nationally significant resources that are too rarely, for my taste, recognized as such, I think about West Yellowstone and its Union Pacific Railroad complex.  It is not that the residents of West Yellowstone, Montana, do not identify these places as vitally significant to their history–few districts have better public

interpretation courtesy of the West Yellowstone Walking Tour, one of the best examples of local heritage tourism I have seen in the country, period. But still within the history of the western national parks the role of the Union Pacific, as it extended far north of its mainline to reach Yellowstone National Park, is seldom considered, much less appreciated.

Officially the property was designated as the West Yellowstone Oregon Short Line Terminus and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.  Several buildings and structures, including a bit of the railroad line are included in the district.  Construction of the line occurred from 1906-1908 and the first passengers arriving in the latter year.  The passenger depot now serves as a museum, not just about the railroad but about the

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development of the park and the adjacent region.  Completed in 1909 and designed by the railroad’s engineering office using rhyolite stone, the depot with its prominent brackets and arches reflect elements of the Arts and Crafts style popular at the time.  When passenger traffic to the depot ended c. 1970, the railroad deeded the depot to the town of West Yellowstone and a private museum was installed c. 1972.  The Yellowstone Historic Center leased the depot in 2000 and has installed much improved exhibits–again part of the general improvement in public interpretation at the district in the last 30 years.

IMG_0873  The district’s architectural jewel, the Dining Room, dates almost a generation later to 1926.  Architect Gilbert S. Underwood designed one of the late marvels of the Rustic style as defined in the northern Rockies.  With its rugged stone exterior rising as it was a natural formation in the land, the dining room immediately told arriving visitors that an adventure awaited them, especially once they stepped inside and experienced the vast log interior spaces.

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Gallatin Co West yellowstone Union Pacific Depot NRHD 34Other former Union Pacific buildings have been given adaptive reuse treatment by the town, with a baggage building becoming police headquarters and the former men’s dormitory has been converted into a local health clinic.

West Yellowstone is also an entrepreneurial landscape, with the early Madison Hotel, which is listed in the National Register, being just the beginning of a trend where local businesses began to serve visitors to the park, especially as the automobile replaced the train as the primary way to reach this gateway after World War II.

IMG_6580Thus, West Yellowstone is among Montana’s best examples of roadside architecture as distinctive 19502-1960w motels and a wide assortment of commercial types line both U.S. 191 but also the side arteries to the highway.