Glendive: Landmarks Old and New

img_7257In the early posts of this exploration of Montana’s historic landscape I spoke of the transformation that I encountered when I revisited Glendive, the seat of Dawson County, for the first time in about 25 years, of how local preservation efforts had kept most of the town’s railroad era landscapes alive while leading to the revitalization of its amazing number of historic residences from 1900 to 1950.

Dawson Co Glendive Merrill Ave NR district city hallLet’s now turn our attention to public landmarks, old and more recent, that also deserve notice, starting with the magnificent Classical Revival-styled City Hall, one of the anchors of the Merrill Avenue historic district, which is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.  Built in 1914, this all-in-one municipal building is an impressive architectural

Dawson Co Glendive Merrill Ave NR district city hallstatement by the second generation of Glendale’s leaders that the town would grow and prosper during the homesteading boom of the first two decades of the 20th century.  The architect was Brynjulf Rivenes of Miles City.  His firm had so many commissions coming from eastern Montana and Yellowstone Valley patrons that by this time Rivenes operated offices in both Glendive and Miles City.

img_7268Rivenes had earlier marked Glendive’s new emerging townscape with his Gothic design for the First Methodist Church, in 1909.  Fifteen years later, he added another landmark church design with the Romanesque styled Sacred Heart Catholic Church (1924-1925).

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The grand circular entrance window depicted the story of the sacred heart of Jesus.  Bishop Mathias Lenihan dedicated the window in 1925. The tan brick of the building came from Hebron, North Dakota.

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Rivenes also designed various commercial buildings along Merrill Avenue and its prominent side streets as Glendive business boomed from 1900 to the era of the Great Depression.  During the New Deal, the federal government worked with local and state government to improve local infrastructure and irrigation.  It also sponsored the construction of the Colonial Revival-styled Glendive post office, by federal architect Louis A. Simon, in the mid-1930s.

img_7269With recovery and the arrival of more and more automobile traffic from the late 1930s to the 1950s, many of the older buildings received mid-century updates.  The remodels could

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overwhelming, like the glass block windows and brick wall inserts at the Classical Revival styled Masonic Lodge, above, or they could be more effective blending of the early 20th past with the mid-century present as at the Kolstad Jewelry shop, below.

Dawson Co Glendive Kolstad Jewelry decoThe 1950s and 1960s brought many changes to Glendive.  Post World War Ii growth both in the town and the many surrounding ranches led to expansion and remodeling at the historic Glendive Milling Company in 1955.  When the historic districts for Glendive were designated in the late 1980s, preservationists questioned the inclusion of this important industrial/agricultural complex due to the changes of the 1950s.  Viewed today, however, the mill complex is clearly a very significant historic site.

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As passenger traffic on the Northern Pacific Railway slacked, automobile traffic on the Yellowstone Trail (U.S. Highway 10) became more important as the old motel above also attests.  Architectural signs like for the Gust Hauf located at 300 West Bell Street downtown don’t really make sense today but it did in 1965 when travelers were still using U.S. Highway 10 every day.

img_7218More contemporary styled church buildings were also dedicated in the mid-century, such as the classic “contemporary” styling of the Assembly of God building, with classrooms at

img_7292at the front rather than the rear, or the modified A-frame style of the First Congregational Church, which I shared in an earlier post on Glendive.

Dawson Co Glendive Congregational churchGlendive is very much a blending of different 20th century architectural styles, reaching back into the region’s deep, deep past, as at Makoshika State Park, where the visitor

img_7297center/museum is an excellent example of late 20th century modern style–clearly a building of the present but one that complements, not overwhelms, the beauty of the park itself.

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Glendive and early 20th century domestic architecture

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Glendive’s growth into one of the Yellowstone’s major towns in the first decades of the 20th century is well documented in its intact historic homes along Meade and Kendrick Avenues, which are located between the Yellowstone River to the west and the commercial corridor represented by Merrill Avenue to the east. Earlier posts have identified the two key economic events–the Lower Yellowstone Project of 1904/5 and the expansion of the Northern Pacific Railway shops in the 1920s–that shaped the neighborhood. Here I want to share the neighborhood’s stylistic diversity, along with the obvious pride that owners have in their homes and town. Let’s begin with an amazing set of bungalows, one of the region’s best concentrations of this early 20th century architectural style. There is a mix of what are often characterized as Craftsman Bungalows, with its thatch-like shingle roofs, exposed stick work and prominent bracketed porches. Others are more restrained in their ornament, taking on the look of a transitional design between Victorian era details and the one- and one-half story bungalow form.
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Next comes variations from another popular early 20th century form, the “foursquare,” a two-story, squarish dwelling, typically with a hipped roof and a less prominent porch than a bungalow, but as this example from Kendrick Avenue indicates, the Foursquare can come off looking much like a bungalow on steroids.
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The neighborhood also has earlier Victorian styles, such as this rambling Queen Anne-style house on Meade Avenue, while just a bit farther away on North Douglas is the Krug House, an outstanding Montana example of Classical Revival-infused Foursquare design that was completed in 1907.
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This National Register-listed property, designed by St. Louis architect Herbert G. Chivers, was the home of Charles Krug and family and definitely represents a statement house for its time. Krug wanted to prove that good money could be made from sheep–a rancher need not be only a cattleman.
A statement of modernity comes from Gresham Street, near the high school, where this Art Deco dwelling stands out among the more traditional designs of the town. Another different statement was made by this Contemporary-style home on Kendrick Avenue, which dates to the city’s last boom in the early 1960s. More at home in a modern suburban setting than the more formal early 20th neighborhood of Meade and Kendrick Avenues, this house, with its prominent A-frame center section and project front entrance garage states 1960s values well.
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Glendive’s historic homes are complemented by its early 20th century historic churches. I will close with two: the Castellated Gothic United Methodist Church and the Romanesque-styled Sacred Heart Catholic Church.
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Glendive in the 1980s struck me as a town in decline but one that retained a faith in its historic buildings and houses. Thirty years later than faith seemed renewed–as the historic fabric of the town has changed, certainly, but also had been maintained even enhanced by local stewardship.

Modernism in Glendive

My last post on Glendive, the primary commercial and transportation center of the Lower Yellowstone Valley, looked at the Northern Pacific Railroad’s imprint on the town. :et’s shift focus into the early 20th century, when the automobile corridors–the Yellowstone Highway or U.S.Highway 10–began to leave their marks on the town.

Historic Texaco Station in Art Moderne style, Glendive , MT

Historic Texaco Station in Art Moderne style, Glendive , MT


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As the Yellowstone Highway left town and headed west, two outstanding examples of roadside architecture survive, the c. 1930 Art Moderne-styled Texaco gas station, complete with a small motor court for lodging in the rear, and a later historic drive-in, Frosty’s, complete with the low canopy typical of the early non-standardized drive-in establishments.
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Also feeding traffic into the heart of Glendive was the 1925 Bell Street Bridge over the Yellowstone River. This National Register-listed bridge was once a gleaming steel and concrete landmark of modern transportation; it continues to serve the town as a pedestrian bridge.
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Downtown Glendive is dominated by a modern monument to its time of greatest prosperity–the city reached its population high of just over 7,000 in 1960: the Dawson County Courthouse of 1962. Designed by the long-established Billings firm of J. G. Link, the courthouse represents the “contemporary modern” movement in the state’s architecture of the 1950s and 1960s.
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Dawson County Courthouse, 1962, Glendive, MT

Dawson County Courthouse, 1962, Glendive, MT


An even more striking example is the space age aesthetics found in the town’s public library, which when I lasted visited Glendive in the 1980s still served its original purpose as a local bank.
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The contemporary sixties look even extended into Glendive’s historic neighborhoods, as reflected in the A-frame style of the First Congregationalist Church, and into new commercial buildings, such as the Saarinen-esque sloping roofline of the historic Safeway store, now adapted into the Eastern Montana Events Center.
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Glendive has lost over a quarter of that 1960 population, checking in the 2010 census at just under 5,000 residents. Before we leave this spot on the Yellowstone, let’s explore more its historic neighborhoods, full of a range of interesting domestic architecture from 1900 to 1960. That’s the next post.

Glendive: the Yellowstone’s first railroad town

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As the tracks of the Northern pacific Railroad pushed west in 1881, they encountered the Yellowstone River at a place that became Glendive, the Yellowstone Valley’s first railroad town. Here the company located a division point and built offices, roundhouses, and other support structures for the trains moving between the Great Lakes and the West Coast. In 1984 when I came to Glendive for the state historic preservation plan survey, it was not my first visit. A year earlier I had began to work with the Western Heritage Center in Billings as a historian for its first major exhibit on the Yellowstone and its history, an exhibit that eventually was titled “Yellowstone: River of Life.” Glendive as a railroad division point played a key role in that story, and when I first visited the town I enjoyed the fact that a late 19th century depot, standing just off the main line, now served as the local visitor center and Chamber of Commerce offices.
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At that time I saw little outside of the railroad’s imprint on the landscape. Glendive, like many initial Northern Pacific towns, had a “symmetrical plan.” The train tracks cut a path through the town, with a combination passenger station/company office commanding the corridor. On the opposite side of the tracks were housing for railroad workers and machine shops, roundhouses, elevators, etc. associated with the railroad.

Northern Pacific corridor in Glendive

Northern Pacific corridor in Glendive


Facing the depot was the primary commercial street, Merrill Avenue, which later served as the town’s primary commercial artery for U.S. Highway 10 and is now designated as “Business I-94.” The many historic commercial buildings along Merrill Avenue facing the depot and railroad tracks captivated me–the dialogue between local entrepreneurs and the massive international capitalism represented by the Northern Pacific was plain to see.
Merrill Avenue Historic District, Glendive

Merrill Avenue Historic District, Glendive


Clearly this long-stretch of buildings recorded the town’s shifting economic fortunes from the 1880s to the depression era, and was worthy of designation in the National Register of Historic Places, work that has since taken place.
Closed for sometime now, the Lulhaven Bar is a classic example of Art Deco, with its black carrera glass and glass block entrance

Closed for sometime now, the Lulhaven Bar is a classic example of Art Deco, with its black carrera glass and glass block entrance


The Jordan Hotel combines both Art Deco elements and an overall International Style feel to reflect not only the depot across the street but to invite customers into its corner entrance

The Jordan Inn combines both Art Deco elements and an overall International Style feel to reflect not only the depot across the street but to invite customers into its corner entrance


The striking 1960s metal facade of the Rose Theater was layer over an earlier brick building

The striking 1960s metal facade of the Rose Theater was layer over an earlier brick building


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What particularly struck my eye was the different eras of prosperity represented by buildings such as those owned by Henry Dion, a leading early 20th century merchant. Dion built the 1905 brick building above during the boom brought out by the launching of the Lower Yellowstone Irrigation Project. Later, as the railroad expanded its presence with the new passenger station and the federal highway came down Merrill Avenue, an Art Deco layer appeared, making a old building suddenly trendy and “modern.”
In 1984, however, I did not much venture beyond the railroad corridor to understand how the shifts documented in those historic buildings also could be found across the town. Much like the residents I was captivated with the railroad’s imprint–as shown in this wonderful mural of local history, prepared by high school students, and installed in the lobby of the modernist Dawson County Courthouse in 1982.
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I spoke with the community at the courtroom around the corner one March night in 1984 and we all agreed on what was important. But later trips to Glendive, and the town’s push into historic preservation, quickly convinced me that there was more to tell.

The Lower Yellowstone Project

Irrigation ditch at Intake, MT

Irrigation ditch at Intake, MT


Established by the Newlands Reclamation Act of 1902, the U.S. Reclamation Service moved early to transform the northern plains of Montana. The Lower Yelllowstone Project dates to 1904-1905, and the diversion dam and ditch established at Intake, north of Glendive, the seat of Dawson County, is the best single place to see the engineered landscape of the U.S. Reclamation Service.
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The dam, shown above, diverts water from the Yellowstone River into the big ditch, see below, which in turns waters thousands of acres of ranches in Dawson and Richland counties.
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Intake itself was initially a town of promise, as the two historic elevators suggest, but the spur line built from the Northern Pacific Railway at Glendive north to Sidney. But there is nothing left there now but the recreation area on the Yellowstone River.
Intake elevators

Intake elevators

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A much more successful story happened to the north at the town of Savage in Richland County. Here you cannot escape the ditch as it winds through the town. But residents also have established their own local museum about their community and the irrigation project, centered on the historic Breezy Flats school.
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Savage still has its high school, built by the New Deal in Art Deco style in the late 1930s, and new churches speak to recent growth. Like other Richland County towns, rapid growth as exploration of the Williston Basin could transform this little town that the railroad and federal irrigation projects built. That time has not arrived here yet–but at Sidney the county seat, the transformation is well underway. That story is next.
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Football field at Savage

Football field at Savage