Eastern Montana County Seats: Scobey

Daniels Co Scobey signs

For whatever reason, readers of Montana’s Historic Landscapes have been very interested in Daniels County, way up in the northeast corner of the state.  In previous posts I have discussed the Daniels County Courthouse–one of my favorites–the county’s historic rural schools and Flaxville, one of the most interesting tiny towns left from the homesteading era in all of eastern Montana.

Daniels Co Scobey 5

Today I want to look back at Scobey, the seat of Daniels County, which was established in 1920 at the end of the homesteading era.  Sometimes it is referred to as the most isolated county seat in America.  But whatever its isolation may be, I found Scobey a relaxing, interesting place, and actually took many images.  But outside of the courthouse, schools, the fairgrounds, and wonderful Pioneer Museum, I did not share much with the readers.  This post changes that.

Daniels Co Scobey 5 libraryThe county library, above, is small but busy, a reminder of how important these public buildings can be.  About 5 years ago, the time of my last visit, Scobey still had its own medical center, below, as well as a distinctive post office, different from many in the region due to its modernist style.

Daniels Co Scobey hospital

Daniels Co Scobey post office

Much of its past remains, and remains in use.  The railroad corridor had changed–the passenger depot was gone, but historic grain elevators still mark how Scobey was a major grain shipping point for much of the 20th century.

Daniels Co Scobey elevators 2

Historic churches have left deep roots in Scobey.  Below are the Scobey United Methodist Church, the Scobey Lutheran Church (which has a wonderful Gothic altar), and St. Bonitus Catholic Church, another example of mid-century modern in the Catholic church buildings of Eastern Montana.

Daniels Co Scobey Methodist

Daniels Co Scobey Lutheran

Daniels Co Scobey St Philip Bonitus

The residential area has plenty of vernacular-styled 20th century homes, most from the first half of the century.  I particularly liked the next two bungalows on Timmons Street.

Daniels Co Scobey Timmons St

Daniels Co Scobey timmons street

Five years ago the business district had clearly weathered the 2007-2008 recession and lots of stores and bars were open, anchored by Independence Bank, another example of 1960s-1970s modern commercial style in Scobey.

Businesses from the first decade of settlement also were part of the “downtown” fabric, such as this historic two-story Masonic Hall and the Pioneer Hotel, which once served as a first stop for homesteaders upon their arrival in Scobey.

Daniels Co Scobey 22

Daniels Co Scobey Pioneer Hotel

There is a persistence in Scobey that is admirable.  The Daniel County Leader, the local newspaper, also has weathered the storm of media change in the 21st century and stands in the heart of town, still undoubtedly serving as a community communication center.

Daniels Co Scobey 9

How I missed these properties in my initial post–well I can’t explain that.  I am sure I had a good reason 5 years ago. But what is really inexplicable to me is why I did not share more of my photos from the Scobey School–especially its football and track field below–

Daniels Co Scobey 1 football

along with more interior images from the Daniels County Courthouse, the one building in Scobey that is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.  Here you see the courthouse’s long hallway (with its National Register sign in the corner), the records vault, the courtroom’s jury box, and the jury room.  Just walking into this place takes me to the beginning years of Daniels County.

Daniels Co Scobey courthouse interior

Daniels Co Scobey courthouse interior 1

Daniels Co Scobey courthouse interior 4

Daniels Co Scobey courthouse interior jury room

One property type many people ask about are cemeteries.  Unfortunately I did not have the time to record every tombstone in these places–another time, perhaps.  But I can add to the blog additional images from the Daniels County Cemetery, which lies outside of Scobey.  These images hardly cover everything but they do document what a special place this tiny county seat is, for residents and for visitors willing to go exploring.

Daniels Co Scobey Cemetery

Daniels Co Scobey cemetery 6

Daniels Co Scobey cemetery 4

Daniels Co Scobey Cemetery 3

Daniels Co Scobey cemetery 1

 

Eastern Montana County Seats: Ryegate

Golden Valley Co US 12 Ryegate sign football filed

Ryegate, population of approximately 236, is the seat of Golden Valley County.  Since it stands along U.S. Highway 12 at its junction with Montana Highway 300, it is a small town that I visit almost every time I am in Montana and making a trek between Billings and Helena.  I always prefer the two-lane U.S. and state roads because they give you a sense of immediacy in the landscape that driving interstates do not.

Golden Valley Co Ryegate elevators signsBut like most travelers I roar down the highway, perhaps noting the tall grain elevators facing the town proper, and pay little attention to anything else.  In a post of four years ago, I spoke of Golden Valley County and its historic landmarks, highlighting the grain elevators, the Golden Valley Courthouse, the Sims-Garfield historic ranch, and the historic town bar in Ryegate.  But like the other eastern Montana county seats, Ryegate deserves a closer look.

Golden Valley Co Ryegate courthouse

Golden Valley Courthouse, photo from 2007

 

Although the depot and tracks are long gone, surviving railroad bed reminds us that Ryegate is a historic Milwaukee Road town, established c. 1910, and became a county seat in 1920 when Golden Valley County was established.  As the seat, the town became the county’s center for public education.  Ryegate School is still a K-12 school serving the entire county.

Golden Valley Co Ryegate school 2

The intro photo to this post shows the athletic field; the school uses the historic gym below for sports and community events.

Golden Valley Co Ryegate schoolRyegate received one of the standardized “modern” post office designs from the federal government in the 1970s–the town’s fortunes have remained basically frozen after the Milwaukee Road declared bankruptcy and shut down the tracks in 1980.

Golden Valley Co Ryegate post office

In my original posting I ignored a historic church building, below, St, Mathias Catholic Church, which was dedicated and opened in October 1914. From what I know it is the oldest institutional building in Ryegate. I want to research this compelling example of vernacular church architecture more!

Golden Valley Co Ryegate St Mathias Catholic

Ryegate, like many of the towns along U.S. Highway 12, got the big whammy in the late 1970s of the interstate system being finished and the railroad going bankrupt.  The amount of traffic passing through now is a fraction of what it used to be. The historic commercial building below once served different businesses and customers.  It is mostly used for storage today.

Golden Valley Co Ryegate 1

 

Eastern Montana County Seats: Circle

McCone Co Circle sign

In my original post about Circle, the seat of McCone County, I focused on the fate of the Gladstone Hotel, a place that I had stayed at in 1984 and a property listed in the National Register of Historic Places as one of the few homesteading era hotels left in the region.  I also spoke about public institutions, the fairgrounds, schools, and the excellent McCone County Museum. In the years since I visited and talked about Circle in 2013, I have fielded several inquiries, and people wishing to see more.

McCone Co Circle St Francis Xavier Catholic

Sometimes you wonder how you neglected to speak about obvious landmarks, such as St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church, which is among the town’s most impressive architectural statements.  It blends the more traditional late 19th century bell tower found at other Catholic churches will mid-twentieth century brick work and large glass block windows.

At least I had an excuse for the landmark across the street, the George McCone Memorial County Library, which in 2013 I could only get a decent side view (image on right) due to a public gathering taking place–one that I do not want to interrupt just to get a photo so the image on the left is from library’s website. I have another reason to return to Circle is the next couple of years! Public libraries are so important, period, but especially so in small towns.

McCone Co Circle school 4

McCone Co Circle school

McCone Co Circle school 1

Nearby the public library, naturally, is the large school complex area, with most of the buildings dating to the second half of the twentieth century, including the “spaceship” era of school building from the 1960s and 1970s (immediately above).  With this building type educators decided to move away from the standard rectangular classroom and build more flexible circle-designs to encourage innovation and flexibility from teachers.

McCone Co Circle fairgrounds 1

McCone Co Circle fairgrounds

Just as I could/ should have said more about the schools, I needed to do the same with the McCone County Fairgrounds, a comparatively huge public property on the town’s outskirts.  The county fair is almost as old as the county itself, which celebrates its 100th anniversary this year.  That’s right, McCone County was established in 1919.

McCone Co Circle streetscape

The fairgrounds, schools, and libraries–I discussed bars in an earlier post– are vital community centers in Circle, as its Vets Club, with that building occupying a strategic corner in town and its glass block windows distinguishing its entrance. As it is true with so many small western towns, regular movie showings are rare to non-existent. The Claret Theater was closed in 2013 and does not appears to have re-opened.

McCone Co Circle theater

A word about banks.  During the homesteading era, local banks competed for the patronage of the homesteaders.  When the boom went to bust, the banks closed up business but their buildings, typically well located in the town, remain and ever since different owners have converted these buildings into new uses.  A boutique had opened in one of the old Circle banks, seen below.

McCone Co Circle bank

Since I had visited Circle last some 30 years ago, Wells Fargo has located a new bank, again at a prominent street corner, and contributes significantly to the town’s financial services.

McCone Co Circle bank 1980sAnother new financial services building since my 1980s visit to Circle is the McCone County Credit Union building, shown below to the left of the landmark McCone County Memorial building.

McCone Co Circle medical clinic

These images are among those I took of Circle in 2013–it was a rather quick stop and I look forward having more time to explore in the next year.

McCone Co Circle old city hall ND?

Eastern Montana County Seats: Glasgow

Valley Co Glasgow courthouse

It has been five years since I revisited the historic built environment of northeast Montana.  My last posting took a second look at Wolf Point, the seat of Roosevelt County.  I thought a perfect follow-up would be second looks at the different county seats of the region–a part of the Treasure State that I have always enjoyed visiting, and would strongly encourage you to do the same.

Valley Co Glasgow 2 elevators

Grain elevators along the Glasgow railroad corridor.

Like Wolf Point, Glasgow is another of the county seats created in the wake of the Manitoba Road/Great Northern Railway building through the state in the late 1880s.  Glasgow is the seat of Valley County.  The courthouse grounds include not only the modernist building above from 1973 but a WPA-constructed courthouse annex/ public building from 1939-1940 behind the courthouse.

Valley Co Glasgow WPA public building behind courthouse

The understated WPA classic look of this building fits into the architectural legacies of Glasgow.  My first post about the town looked at its National Register buildings and the blending of classicism and modernism.  Here I want to highlight other impressive properties that I left out of the original Glasgow entry.  St. Michael’s Episcopal Church is an excellent late 19th century of Gothic Revival style in Montana.

Valley Co Glasgow St Mike Episcopal NR

The town has other architecturally distinctive commercial buildings that document its transition from late Victorian era railroad town to am early 20th century homesteading boom town.

Valley Co Glasgow 23

Valley Co Glasgow 14

The fact that these buildings are well-kept and in use speaks to the local commitment to stewardship and effective adaptive reuse projects.  As part of Glasgow’s architectural legacy I should have said more about its Craftsman-style buildings, beyond the National

Valley Co Glasgow Art Deco Rundle building name

Register-listed Rundle Building.  The Rundle is truly eye-catching but Glasgow also has a Mission-styled apartment row and then its historic Masonic Lodge.

Valley Co Glasgow 20

Valley Co Glasgow masonic lodge

I have always been impressed with the public landscapes of Glasgow, from the courthouse grounds to the city-county library (and its excellent local history collection)

 

Valley Co Glasgow library

and on to Valley County Fairgrounds which are located on the boundaries of town.

Valley Co Glasgow fairgrounds

Valley Co Glasgow fairgrounds 2

Another key public institution is the Valley County Pioneer Museum, which proudly emphasizes the theme of from dinosaur bones to moon walk–just see its entrance.

Valley Co Glasgow museum roadside

The museum was a fairly new institution when I first visited in 1984 and local leaders proudly took me through the collection as a way of emphasizing what themes and what places they wanted to be considered in the state historic preservation plan.  Then I spoke with the community that evening at the museum.  Not surprisingly then, the museum has ever since been a favorite place.  Its has grown substantially in 35 years to include buildings and other large items on a lot adjacent to the museum collections.  I have earlier discussed its collection of Thomas Moleworth furniture–a very important bit of western material culture from the previous town library.  In the images below, I want to suggest its range–from the deep Native American past to the railroad era to the county’s huge veteran story and even its high school band and sports history.

Valley Co Glasgow museum 1

Valley Co Glasgow museum 11

Valley Co Glasgow museum 16

Valley Co Glasgow museum 13

Valley Co Glasgow museum 17

A new installation, dating to the Lewis and Clark Bicentennial of 2003, is a mural depicting the Corps of Discovery along the Missouri River in Valley County.  The mural is signed by artist Jesse W. Henderson, who also identifies himself as a Chippewa-Cree.  The mural is huge, and to adequately convey its details I have divided my images into the different groups of people Henderson interprets in the mural.

The Henderson mural, together with the New Deal mural of the post office/courthouse discussed in my first Glasgow posting (below is a single image of that work by Forrest

Valley Co Glasgow 1 New Deal mural

Hill), are just two of the reasons to stop in Glasgow–it is one of those county seats where I discover something new every time I travel along U.S. Highway 2.

An end of the century trip to Central Montana

The vast majority of my effort to document and think about the historic landscapes of Montana lie with two time periods, 1984-85 and 2012-16. But in between those two focused periods, other projects at the Western Heritage Center in Billings brought me back to the Big Sky Country. Almost always I found a way to carve out a couple of additional days to get away from the museum and study the many layers of history, and change, in the landscape by taking black and white images as I had in 1984-85. One such trip came in 1999, at the end of the 20th century.

In Billings itself I marveled at the changes that historic preservation was bringing to the Minnesota Avenue district. The creation of an “Internet cafe” (remember those?) in the McCormick Block was a guaranteed stop.

But my real goal was to jet up highways 191 and 80 to end up in Fort Benton. Along the way I had to stop at Moore, one of my favorite Central Montana railroad towns, and home to a evocative set of grain elevators.

Then a stop for lunch at the Geraldine bar and the recently restored Geraldine depot, along a historic spur of the Milwaukee Road. I have always loved a stop in this plains country town and this day was especially memorable as residents showed off what they had accomplished in the restoration. Another historic preservation plus!

Then it was Fort Benton, a National jewel seemingly only appreciated by locals, who faced an often overwhelming task for preserving and finding sustainable new uses for the riverfront buildings.

It was exciting to see the recent goal that the community eagerly discussed in 1984–rebuilding the historic fort.

A new era for public interpretation of the northern fur trade would soon open in the new century: what a change from 1984.

I beat a quick retreat back to the south, following the old Manitoba Road route along the Missouri and US Highway 87 and back via highway 89 to the Yellowstone Valley. I had to pay a quick tribute to Big Timber, and grab a brew at the Big Timber

Bar. The long Main Street in Big Timber was obviously changing–new residents and new businesses. Little did I know how much change would come in the new century.

One last detour came on the drive to see if the absolutely spectacular stone craftsmanship of the Absarokee school remained in place–it did, and still does.

My work in Tennessee had really focused in the late 1990s on historic schools: few matched the distinctive design of Absarokee. I had to see it again.

Like most trips in the 1990s to Billings I ended up in Laurel–I always felt this railroad town had a bigger part in the history of Yellowstone County than

generally accepted. The photos I took in 1999 are now striking– had any place in the valley changed more than Laurel in the 21st century?

Helena’s Archie Bray Foundation, 1988

Over the last few years, several colleagues have asked–what images from the 1980s do you have of the old western clay works where the Archie Bray Foundation set up shop?

I have just recently rediscovered these three images. Over the next weeks I hope to dig out more. The Bray has had such a major impact on the arts not just in Montana but in the world. But in its early decades the Bray worked from these decaying industrial ruins. Perhaps its story is the state’s best example of adaptive reuse.

Another look at Wolf Point, 2013

A national newspaper published an online story today about the issues of public education and schools in Wolf Point, the seat of Roosevelt County, Montana.  The story included just a couple of images of the town itself and that prompted me to go back into my survey of the town in 2013.  I took 44 images–probably should have done more indeed–but out of those 44 here are some other views of Wolf Point, as it looked in 2013.

Roosevelt Co Wolf Point sign L&C

Roosevelt Co Wolf Point depot

Wolf Point’s railroad depot

Roosevelt Co Wolf Point 5 US 2, GN corridor, elevators

US Highway 2 and the grain elevators at Wolf Point

Roosevelt Co Wolf Point courthouse

The courthouse, built during the New Deal

Roosevelt Co Wolf Point Fort Peck College

Roosevelt Co Wolf Point library

The Roosevelt County Library

Roosevelt Co Wolf Point 11Roosevelt Co Wolf Point 9Roosevelt Co Wolf Point 8Roosevelt Co Wolf Point 4

Roosevelt Co Wolf Point 3 cowboy sculpture Homage by Floyd DeWitt

Business district scenes, with cowboy statue above. Earlier in century, Wolf Point pursued having a cowboy hall of fame built in the town.

Roosevelt Co Wolf Point Stockman Bar

Bars and cafes facing the railroad tracks on US Highway 2

Roosevelt Co Wolf Point theater

Roosevelt Co Wolf Point 13 Water Hole Bar mural

Mural on the side of a bar in Wolf Point

Roosevelt Co Wolf Point fairgrounds

The county fairgrounds

Roosevelt Co Wolf Point 6 signs