As part of my May 2018 trip to Montana, I stopped in Big Timber to see if anything was left of the historic Sweet Grass County High School of 1905. When I first viewed the large two-story building that rests on a full basement story in the early 1980s, I thought here was a classic statement of public architecture–a building that in its size, style, and purpose matched the ambitions of Big Timber on the eve of the homesteading boom to come. But in 2014, when I took the photograph above, I thought that the school’s days were numbered–how do you find a new purpose for a building this large in a town this small? What were the adaptive reuse possibilities? It was clear that without a new purpose, the historic high school would not survive for much longer.
Then in October 2017, someone set a fire that almost totally destroyed the school building. When I pulled into Big Timber the following May, I expected to see a parking lot or at least an empty lot (the local Episcopal Church had purchased the property). The damaged building was still there, however, giving me one final chance to take an image, one that now represents dreams dashed, and yet another historic building gone from the Montana landscape.