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.
They won’t save the building but it looks like they have a nice civic project in mind for the space: https://vimeo.com/354260175
Hi, I have a question about local history. Sorry if this isn’t the right place. Charles C. Ramsey, former owner of the Buffalo Jump ranch (north of Big Timber), used to live in a very unusual historic building on the ranch that they converted into a home. The story I remember, was that a religious cult leader came in the late 1800’s and his followers built that structure for him while they lived in tents. Do you know anything about the religious group or the leader? Thanks in advance. Fraser
I don’t know but will see what I can find out