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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Kalispell’s historic neighborhoods

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Designed by Kirkland Cutter in 1895, the Conrad Mansion, with its beautiful Shingle-style architecture making it an instant design statement for one of Kalispell’s most prominent founding families–was THE domestic architecture landmark when I surveyed the town during the state historic preservation plan of 1984-1985. I really did not look further. As the collage below shows, that was a mistake.

Kalispell has a wide range of domestic architecture, from turn of the 20th century American Four Squares to the Revival styles of the 1920s-1940s, that was captured in its 1994 multiple property nomination to the National Register of Historic Places that led to the creation of the East Side, the West Side, and the Courthouse historic districts.  Defined by tree-lined streets, the variety of house types within the district makes every step along the way worthwhile.

Flathead Co Kalispell east side historic district 2The images above and those below come from those well maintained neighborhoods, where the sense of place and pride is so strongly stated.

But in this quick overview of some of the most impressive Montana neighborhoods–despite overwhelming growth Kalispell has not left its older homes behind–let me re-emphasize a theme of my recent re-survey of the state:  contemporary design and the homes of the 1950s to early 1970s that were not considered closely in either 1984 or 1994.

Flathead Co Kalispell East Side HD ranch house Flathead Co Kalispell contemporary ranch

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Hats off to Kalispell:  a town that had changed so much from 1985 to 2015–let me tell you it didn’t take long to pass through town 30 years ago.  But through historic preservation, its roots are still there, serving as the foundation for the future.

 

Missoula’s historic neighborhoods

Missoula Co Missoula East Pine HDTo wrap up this multi-post look at Missoula and Missoula County, let’s take a brief look at the city’s historic neighborhoods.  With seven historic districts, Missoula is rich in domestic architecture, and not only the homes built during its rise and boom from the early 1880s to the 1920s–there also are strong architectural traditions from the post-World War II era.  This post, however, will focus on the early period, using the South Side and East Pine historic districts as examples.

IMG_7667Listed in the National Register of Historic Places 25 years ago, the south side district was platted in 1890, with development especially booming after the turn of the century and the arrival of the Milwaukee Road depot by 1910.  Within that 20 year period, an impressive grouping of domestic architecture, shaped by such leading architects as A. J. Gibson, was constructed, and much of it remains today.  When the state historic preservation office designated the district in 1991, there were over 200 contributing buildings.

IMG_7659The neighborhood contains some of the city’s best examples of Queen Anne style, as seen above but also has many different examples of other popular domestic styles of the era, such as the American Four-square and variations on the various commonplace turn of the century types as the bungalow.

As true in so many turn of the century neighborhoods, various community institutions were crucial to growth and development and historic churches and schools help to define the place even if they are used for different purposes today.

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IMG_7673Apartment blocks and duplexes from the turn of the century also are important contributing buildings to the neighborhood.  They reflect the demand for housing in a rapidly growing early 20th century western city.

The East Pine Street historic district is on the north side of the Clark’s Fork River, and its long, linear plan reflects the planning assumptions of what is often called the City Beautiful Movement of the turn of the century–that homes should be set on large lots, with a boulevard-type median dividing the street, giving an urban environment a bit of a country estate feel. Governor Joseph Dixon hired A. J. Gibson to build his mansion along the street and the neighborhood long held the reputation as the city’s most exclusive.

 

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But the grand architectural statement is not the only defining feature of the East Pine Street neighborhood–here too are more vernacular variations from the 1870s to 1900 domestic architecture, while stuck here and there you also find mid-20th century modern styles anchoring the neighborhood.

Missoula Co Missoula East Pine HD 11Before we leave Missoula, I want to also briefly consider its historic 1884 cemetery, an often forgotten place as it is located on the northside of the Northern Pacific Railroad corridor, and a property, like so many in 1984-1985, I gave no consideration to as I carried out the fieldwork for the state historic preservation plan.

Missoula Co Missoula Cemetery

Missoula Co Missoula CemeteryFort Missoula has the Missoula ‘s oldest cemetery but the city cemetery developed within a year of the arrival of the Northern Pacific Railroad.  The entrance gates were erected in 1905. The cemetery reflects the design ideas of the 19th century Rural Cemetery Movement , with curvilinear drives, large canopies of trees, and an overall naturalistic, serene setting.

Missoula Co Missoula Cemetery 7A large concrete cross and adjacent river rock stone lined marker pay homage to the cemetery’s earliest burials as well as the many first citizens interred here.

As expected, there are many grave markers from the 1890s to the 1930s, and several good representative examples of the mortuary art associated with the late Victorian and early 20th century eras.

The fraternal organizations of the late 19th century also are well represented, with the Masonic marker given a primary location within the cemetery’s looping driveways. Its symbolism of the broken column is matched by that of the Order of the Eastern Star.

I must admit that my favorite monument in the cemetery returns us to a theme that I have discussed across the state–the importance of remembering and commemorating the Civil War in late 19th and early 20th century Montana.  Monuments related to this theme were another under-explored aspect of my 1984-1985 work; today I remain intrigued by just how much Civil War memorialization exists in Montana.

 

The Missoula City Cemetery’s obelisk marker takes on added meaning due to its relative scarcity.  In 1905, the Women’s Relief Corps, an auxiliary of the post-war Grand Army of Republic, erected this memorial.  Scholarship is relatively scant on the Women’s Relief Corps, although a colleague of mine, Dr. Antoinette van Zelm, is making headway on this issue.  Compared to the pro-South United Daughters of the Confederacy, the WRC is little recognized today.  But this marker shows their devotion to Union veterans buried at the City Cemetery.

 

 

Forsyth’s historic districts

Forsyth, the seat of Rosebud County, has used historic preservation effectively as one of many community assets to guide its economic sustainability over the last 30 years.  When I first visited there in 1984, the community had already started to grapple with the impact of the coal mining far south at Decker.  The passing of coal trains defined much of rhythms of traffic and life back then.  But even 30 years ago, residents were determined to keep their identity and to celebrate their heritage, despite being drawn into a different world.  That was impressive–and from 1986 to 1990, they put their commitment into physical terms by listing many properties in the National Register of Historic Places.

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You really haven’t been to Forsyth unless you take in a movie at the Roxy Theater (1930) and an after-movie libation at the Lariat Bar

Earlier posts talked about such key heritage institutions as the Rosebud County Courthouse, the adjacent Rosebud County Museum, the Howdy (Commercial) Hotel, and then the adaptive reuse of the Vananda State Bank as new landmark business.  Forsyth also has a downtown commercial historic district, which includes both the hotel, bank, the Roxy Theater shown above, but additional classic Montana two-story commercial buildings, with their understated Victorian or classical cornices.

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The Masonic Temple, designed by Miles City architect Byrnjulf Rivenes in 1911, served the community in many ways during its formative years, including the town library.  The Blue Front rooming house came in 1912 and served as home for Northern Pacific railroad employees for many years–today it is a remarkably intact example of that type of single-man housing from 100 years ago.

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Residents also have designated a historic district of their homes and churches that developed in the early 20th century.  It is an impressive array of buildings, from the c. 1920 First Presbyterian Church, a Gothic Revival design by Howard Van Doren Shaw of Chicago in partnership with McIver and Cohagen of Billings, to the brilliant Craftsman-style of the McQuistion House (1914) built by Louis Wahl of Forsyth for ranchers Joshua and Grace McQuistion as their “town” home.  Then there is the 1897 Queen Anne-style house moved to its Forsyth lot by ranchers Robert and Dora Lane in 1909.  The Lanes moved on but the house has stayed, becoming over 100 years a real cornerstone to the historic neighborhood.

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Indeed, that is a theme found throughout town. Despite the coal industry that rumbles in the southern end of the county, Forsyth still holds on, and shows pride in, its ranching past.  No better emblem can be found than the modern front to the Forsyth high school.

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Like the vast majority of eastern Montana towns I visited in 2013, Forsyth has lost population from 1980.  Then over 2500 lived there; in 2010 the census takers counted over 1700 residents.  But unlike many, Forsyth is not beat up, abandoned, forgotten, depressing.  The murals by Bob Watts, discussed in an earlier post, are part of the

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answer.  Local stubbornness is another.  But pride in community as expressed through the town’s many historic preservation projects is another.  Forsyth has figured out how to gain a future through an appreciation of the past.  Let’s hope others follow their lead.

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