The Pintler Scenic Route at Drummond

Granite Co, Drummond Front StreetDrummond is the north entrance of the Pintler Scenic Route.  The first ranchers settled here in the 1870s but a proper town, designed in symmetrical fashion facing the railroad tracks, was not established until 1883-1884 as the Northern Pacific Railroad built through here following the Clark’s Fork River to Missoula.

Then Drummond experienced a second wave of railroad-induced growth in 1907-1908 as the Milwaukee Road also followed the Clark’s Fork River on its way from Butte to Missoula, an electrified track that many surviving wood poles mark today. Served by both lines, agricultural and ranching production expanded rapidly, especially when combined by the addition of U.S. Highway 10 through the middle of the town in the 1920s.

Granite Co, MR corridor at Drummond

Abandoned Milwaukee Road corridor in Drummond

IMG_2039

The Northern Pacific corridor is still active as part of the Montana Rail Link.

While transportation was readily available, Drummond was surrounded by larger towns so even at its height it rarely topped over 500 residents, meaning that today its historic buildings largely document a typical Montana rural railroad town of the mid-20th century.

Granite Co, Drummond gas station, Front St, meth mural, roadsideThere is a faintly classically influenced two-story brick commercial block, a Masonic Lodge made of concrete block, various bars and cafes, a railroad water tank, and a slightly Art Deco movie theater, which was open in the 1980s but is now closed.

Granite Co, Drummond Front st and sign

Granite Co, Drummond Rough Stock Bar, Front and Main St

IMG_2042Due to the federal highway and the later Interstate I-90 exit built at Drummond, the town even has a good bit of motel roadside architecture from c. 1970 to 1990.

Granite Co, Drummond Sky Motel off Front St roadside

Granite Co, Drummond Motel, Front St, roadsideBetween the Northern Pacific corridor and old U.S. 10 is the town’s most famous contemporary business, its “Used Cow” corrals, and now far away, on the other side of the

Granite Co, Drummond stock yards, Front Sttracks are rodeo grounds named in honor of Frank G. Ramberg and James A. Morse, maintained by the local American Legion chapter.

Granite Co, Drummond fairgrounds and memorial signs

Granite Co, Drummond fairgroundsThe rodeo grounds are not the only cultural properties in Drummond. The Mullan Road monument along the old highway is the oldest landmark.   The local heritage museum is at the New Chicago School (1874), an frame one-story school moved from the Flint River Valley to its location near the interstate and turned into a museum.

Ironically the town’s historic Milwaukee Road passenger depot is extant, but in the 1980s it was moved to the Fort Missoula museum complex in Missoula for its preservation.

HPIM0709.JPGAnother local museum emphasizes contemporary sculpture and painting by Bill Ohrmann.  A latter day “cowboy artist” Ohrmann grew up in the Flint River Valley but by the 12960s he was producing sculpture and painting on a regular basis.  The museum is also a gallery and his works are for sale, although the huge sculptures might not be going anywhere.

As befitting a Montana agricultural town, community life centers on the library and town hall, the historic Methodist and Catholic churches, and especially the Drummond schools, home to the Trojans.

Granite Co, 1st street, Drummond library and community center

When I visited Drummond this decade I was glad to learn that while the population almost bottomed out following the closing of the Milwaukee Road and the general economic gloom of the 1980s, it had started to grow, and now totaled approximately 330 people–still a 20% decline over 30 years. I hope this bounce back is not short lived–Drummond remains a favorite place and a good way to end this overview of the Pintler Scenic Route, Montana Highway 1.

 

Great Falls’s Northern Montana State Fairgrounds

Too often we think that New Deal agencies always built in rustic style–that is what you find at the national parks, the often iconic log structures from the Civilian Conservation Corps.  But just as common—just not recognized as such–were modernist designs.  I close this month’s look at historic fairgrounds with one of the state’s best groupings of modernist buildings from the historic Northern Montana State Fairgrounds (now Expo Park) in Great Falls.  

Image

The Works Progress Administration added these buildings in 1937.  The Mercantile Building is Art Deco design at its best–linear, hard edged, and projecting elevations.  It spoke to the modern age of machinery and technology and new tools for farmers both on the ranch and in the home.

Image

 

Compare that to the Fine Arts Building with its sweeping curvilinear facade and projecting entrance, almost like an automobile grille from the 1930s.  The design laid claim to urban sophistication and trendy design–an appropriate statement for the “fine arts” to say in Great Falls.

Image

 

 

 Image

 

The Administration Building blends both Art Deco and Moderne elements into a classic International Style statement of domestic architecture.  ExpoPark is to be congratulated for its stewardship of these three buildings.  They are not typical of fairgrounds found throughout the northern counties–and differ markedly from the WPA designs for the Musselshell County Fairgrounds in Roundup, for instance.  But the three buildings speak to Great Falls’ context as a city within the plains, dependent in so many ways on the agriculture that surrounded it but still an oasis of urban life in the Depression era.

 

 

The Hi-Line’s Marias Fairgrounds in Shelby

The Marias Fairgrounds, host to a four-county fair every July, is located on the southside of U.S. Highway 2 on the eastern edge of Shelby, the county seat of Toole County.  The fairgrounds are also immediately south of the Great Northern Railway line.  The fair dates to c. 1941, and the fairgrounds has a blend of mid-century buildings with new facilities.

Image

 

Image

 

Livestock barns and stalls dominate the fairgrounds, as you would expect in this region.  

Image

 

Image

 

Two buildings are particularly noticeable from the highway.  The false front of the Mercantile Building recalls the earliest frame structures built along the railroad line in Shelby.

Image

 

Outside of the grandstand, the fairgrounds’s dominant landmark is the two-story with cupola Dunkirk School, which was moved to the fairgrounds to serve as an exhibit building for 4-H and other youth groups, certainly a very appropriate adaptive re-use of this early 20th century historic building.

Image

 

Terry’s Prairie County Fairgrounds

Image

 

For more than 75 years residents of Prairie County have come every summer to Terry for the annual county fair.  The fairgrounds are located north not only of I-94 but also old U.S. Highway 10 and then even to the north of that, along the abandoned almost disappeared railroad bed of the Milwaukee Road.  The Milwaukee crossed the mainline of the Northern Pacific Railway at Terry, and entrepreneurs tried to create a new commercial corridor facing the Milwaukee tracks, which stood just north of the dominant route of the Northern Pacific.  Those plans never panned out, except for the fairgrounds.  The barns, grandstands, and other buildings developed along the Milwaukee line and there they remain today.

Image

 

Image

 

Image

 

Image

 

ImageT

With its intact setting, the fairgrounds is actually now one of the few fully extant properties along the old Milwaukee line in this part of Montana.  Like in other rural counties, the buildings are nothing spectacular but don’t let their plain, white appearance deceive you:  here is the one of the most important annual community places in the county.

 

The Hi-Line’s Blaine County Fairgrounds, Chinook

Another century-old fair is the Blaine County Fair, held in Chinook.  A quick google search tells us that a county fair took place in Chinook in 1914; the following year fair organizers announced that they hoped to have a large poultry exhibit.  The fairgrounds are visible south of both the Great Northern Railroad tracks and U.S. Highway 2.  Image

The primary entrance, however, is a few blocks off of the Hi-Line as the Bear’s Paws highway skirts the town’s western edge.

Image

Chinook has over 1200 residents, and the fair today is a large four-day event, attracting thousands.  The fairgrounds largely retains its mid-20th century appearance, and its unadorned white-painted buildings speak strongly to the practicality and functionalism of rural landscapes.

Image

Image

High Prairie Fair: Daniels County Fairgrounds, Scobey

Established in the mid-century, 1951 according to one source, the Daniels County Fairgrounds now proudly hosts what organizers call the state’s best “family county fair.”  Scobey is a tiny county seat with just over 1000 residents.  But the fair consistently hosts thousands–an 1956 article in Billboard magazine reported 4,000 attendance over 2 nights and three days, a pattern that remains today.  

The grandstand is the focal point of the fairgrounds, and it retains its 1950s look and vibe perfect for a Montana rodeo.

Image

 

Image

 

Image

 

Adjacent to the rodeo grounds is the Scobey baseball field.  The town takes considerable pride in its early history of professional baseball and the Daniels County Museum has numerous objects and displays about the baseball teams and stars who have played in Scobey.

Image

 

Roundup’s Musselshell County Fairgrounds

Located east of the town and nestled between the old route of the Milwaukee Road and the craggy bluffs of Musselshell River is one of the prettiest and oldest locations of a county fairgrounds in Montana.

ImageCrossing of Musselshell River before you arrive at the fairgrounds in Roundup

The Roundup Record-Tribune and Winnett Times of December 10, 1915 proudly proclaimed the value of the fairgrounds to the new county:  the “natural beauty of the site will be an asset to the county for all time,” although the paper’s editor admitted that “considerable work was called for in transforming the grounds from their crude natural state into a grounds adapted for fair purposes.”  Ray E. Bushnell, the county surveyor, was credited with designing the fairgrounds and producing the overall plan for the site’s development.

Image

 

During the New Deal, the Works Progress Administration in 1936 undertook a major rebuilding of the fairgrounds and its buildings, given the site largely its appearance of today, until, of course, the impact of the terrible flooding of 2012.  High water inundated the grounds but the county quickly rebuilt and as the images below attest–taken in May 2013–the fairgrounds still retains its historic look, feel, and general vibe.  You also can check out the fair’s Facebook page and keep up with all of the events and developments.

Image

Livestock barns

Image

The grandstands, well situated into the bluffs of the river

Image