Back on the Hi-Line at Havre

Hill Co Havre 1st Lutheran 1

This week’s Great Falls Tribune featured a story about the heavy snowfall this here in Havre, the largest town along Montana’s Hi-Line.  The story got me thinking about this classic late nineteenth century railroad town, one of my favorite places to visit in Big Sky Country.  In past posts, I have talked about how residents moved their historic preservation agendas form a focus on the buffalo jump west of town along the Milk River to the old residential neighborhoods themselves.  I gave a particular focus to Havre’s wonderful array of domestic architecture, especially its many variations on the

Hill Co Havre residential historic district 1 Arts and CraftsCraftsman style popular in the early 20th century. It is a place where the pages of the famous Craftsman Magazine seem to come alive as you walk the tree-lined streets. But there is more to Havre’s historic districts than the homes–there are the churches, about which more needs to be said.

Hill Co Havre 1st LutheranAs my first two images of the First Lutheran Church show, Gothic Revival style is a major theme in the church architecture of Havre, even extending into the mid-20th century.  First Lutheran Church is a congregation with roots in Havre’s boom during the homesteading era.  As the congregation grew, members decided to build the present building in 1050-51, adding an educational wing by the end of the decade.

Hill Co Havre residential historic district Episcopal Church

An earlier example of Gothic Revival style is St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, built in 1911 by architect Mario Riffo of Kalispell.  Noted havre architect and builder Frank F. Bossout worked for Riffo at the time and this commission may have been Bossout’s introduction to a city that his designs would so shape in the years to come.

Hill Co Havre residential historic district 1st baptist The earliest Gothic Revival styled church is First Baptist Church, constructed c. 1901, shown above.  The unidentified architect combined Gothic windows into his or her own interpretation of Victorian Gothic, with its distinctive asymmetrical roof line.

Hill Co Havre 539 3rd St-AME church 1A more vernacular interpretation of Gothic style can be found in the town’s original AME Church, built c. 1916 to serve African American railroad workers and their families, and later converted and remodeled into the New Hope Apostolic Church.

Hill Co Havre residential historic district 1st presbyterian

The First Presbyterian Church represents the Classical Revival in Havre church architecture.  Built in 1917-1919 and designed by Frank F. Bossuot, the church’s style reflected that of the nearby courthouse, which Bossuot had designed in 1915, and the town’s Carnegie Library, also from Bossuot’s hand in 1914.

Hill Co Havre St Jude catholic church Spanish Revival

Hill Co Havre St Jude catholic church 1 Spanish RevivalThe Spanish Colonial Revival style of St. Jude’s Catholic Church, however, shows us that architect Frank F. Bossuot was more than a classicist.  The church’s distinctive style sets it apart from other church buildings in Havre.

Hill Co Havre Van Orsdel MethodistThe same can be said for a church building that comes a generation later, the Van Orsdel United Methodist Church.  When the Havre historic district was established, this mid-century modernist designed building was not yet 50 years old, thus it was not considered for the district.  But certainly now, in 2018, the contemporary styling of the sanctuary has merit, and the church has a long history of service.  It started just over one hundred years ago with a brick building named in honor of the Montana Methodist circuit rider W. W. Van Orsdel who introduced the faith to Havre in 1891.  A fire in late 1957 destroyed that building, and the congregation immediately began construction on its replacement, dedicating it in 1958.

From Gothic to modern, the architecture of Havre’s historic churches reflects the town’s robust history in the first half of the twentieth century–and this is just a taste of the many interesting places to be found along the Montana Hi-Line.

2 thoughts on “Back on the Hi-Line at Havre

  1. Can you ask those preservationists who follow your blog and folks in the SHPO to spread the word about threats to the subject bridge and here is a media release from concerned citizens here in Gallatin County:

    “The Nixon Gulch Bridge was built in 1891 and is one of the few remaining pinned, steel through truss bridges in Montana and the country. Because of its uniqueness and historic value, it is eligible for consideration to be on the National Register of Historic Places. Many groups, including the Historic Preservation Board of Gallatin County, the Montana Historical Society, the Manhattan History Museum, the Gallatin County History Museum, the Gallatin County Historical Society, the Rotary Club of Manhattan and the Montana Ghost Town Preservation Society as well as petitions of several hundred county residents support preservation of the bridge. This is not a unique proposal as there are similar and much larger bridges in Wolf Point, Fort Benton, Great Falls, and Missoula that have been preserved and used very successfully as pedestrian bridges. They have added to the tourist interest as well as preserving historic bridges.

    The Commissioners chose the Nixon Bridge for replacement although it was not the most deficient bridge in Gallatin County. It is one of two bridges crossing the Gallatin River that serves about 75 homes in the Gallatin River Ranch. The proposal for a two lane concrete bridge, without a pedestrian walkway, is $1.4 million dollars. Preserving the bridge would provide this safety feature for pedestrians using the bridge for access as well as other recreational uses. The only option to preserve the bridge was nearly half the cost at $750,000 to rebuild it, but was not chosen. The historic Preservation Board of Gallatin County offered its services to preserve the bridge, but the offer was not considered. The Commissioners did state at that time they would provide $50,000 to anyone removing the bridge. This funding was requested to be used for the future demolition cost to be placed in escrow to save the bridge. This funding is what Commissioner Skinner has referenced, but has declined to allow its use. This was an option the Commissioners could have provided but Skinner now threatens the demolition of the bridge unless preservationists can “Show me the money” as per news reporters quotations. This is a challenge that sounds like money is the only barrier to its preservation if we can take Skinner’s words at face value..

    In addition to the present proposal to destroy the bridge is the addition of a concrete foundation in the middle of the Gallatin River and the destruction of much of the recently constructed FWP fishing access. The effect upon the fishing access still requires approval of FWP and may require an Environmental Assessment. The EA would require the destruction of a historic structure to be considered as part of the approval process.

    The Rotary Club of Manhattan has stepped up to become the owner of the bridge, at least for the short term, and funding for the insurance, as required by the Commissioners has been obtained. The future demolition cost, required, but not completely necessary is yet to be obtained. This funding was requested from the demolition cost provided in the $1.4 million, but so far has been denied by the Commissioners.

    Preservation of the Nixon Bridge would have many benefits including preserving an important part of history, providing a safe pedestrian walkway and access area, inclusion in a possible future trail system and a showing that Gallatin County values its history. Since, as stated by the Commissioners engineering firm, construction will not be done until the winter of 2018 and 2019, leaving time for funding and resolution of any other issues. The supporters of the preservation of the Nixon Bridge remain confident that the hurdles presented by the Commissioners can and will be overcome, and the bridge will be preserved for future generations to appreciate and enjoy.”

    …. quotes from media release by concerned citizens in Gallatin County.

    On Feb 8, 2018 11:32 AM, “Revisiting Montana’s Historic Landscape” wrote:

    carrollvanwest posted: ” This week’s Great Falls Tribune featured a story about the heavy snowfall this here in Havre, the largest town along Montana’s Hi-Line. The story got me thinking about this classic late nineteenth century railroad town, one of my favorite places to vis”

  2. Pingback: A look at the Hometown…. – Among The Joshua Trees

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