Few 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.
The 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.
Preservation 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.