Conrad, the seat of Pondera County, is a railroad town, although the town’s close proximity to Interstate I-15 means that so many have forgotten the importance of this Great Northern Railway spur line that stretches from Shelby on the main line south to Great Falls.
The town’s 1920s Arts and Crafts/ Chalet style Great Northern passenger station, along with grain elevators, serve as a reminder of the railroad’s importance to transporting the grains from neighboring ranches.
Facing the depot is a combination symmetrical town, with one story brick buildings, several of them classic western bars, and then a block long T-plan that connects to the historic federal highway U.S. 87.
The Orpheum Theatre (1917-1918) was barely hanging on when I visited in 1985 and then by the end of the century, it appeared that the theatre would never be the center of community life it had been in the 1920s and 1930s. The Pondera Arts Council then acquired the building, restored, and it is now once again a centerpiece of the community, one of several signs of how Conrad has turned to historic preservation to build new futures out of its pasts.