Since my earlier work on the state historic preservation plan in 1984-1985, few places in Montana had experienced such rapid population growth as Stevensville. The place had just over 1200 residents in the 1980s, and that increased to a mere 1221 in 1990. But now Stevensville is close to 2,000 in population.
But enough is still here–like the historic mill complex above–that even as the business changes there is still the feel of an agricultural town at Stevensville. A major reason for the sense of continuity is the Stevensville Commercial Historic District, which has helped to protect the core of the town.
Also, buildings such as the two-story Old Fellows Hall (1912) have been individually listed in the National Register, adding prominence to the historic district. The district has a range of one-story and two-story brick buildings, most from the agricultural boom of the first two decades of the 20th century. A notable exception is a two-story concrete block
Classical Revival-styled bank building, where the blocks are shaped to resemble masonry. You can find this architectural treatment across the state, most often in residential architecture. The Stevensville bank is an important commercial example.
One major trend of Stevensville over 30 years is how buildings have been adapted to new uses. You expect that in a commercial area with a rising population, but here it has happened to such landmarks as the historic turn of the 20th century school building,
which is now the United Methodist Church, while the two-story brick American Four-Square house below is the historic Thornton Hospital (1910), but now serves as the Stevensville Hotel. Both buildings are listed in the National Register.
One area that I really failed to consider in the 1984-1985 work was the diversity and cohesiveness of the historic residential neighborhood. It too has been documented by a National Register historic district, but some dwellings, such as the impressive Classical Revival-styled Bass House have been individually listed.
Another favorite dates to the 1930s and the impact of the International Style on Montana domestic architecture: the Gavin House, with its flat roof, its boxy two-story shape and bands of windows at the corners.
Between these two extremes of early 20th century domestic design, Stevensville has an array of architectural styles, from the Folk Victorian to the more austere late 19th century vernacular to bungalows to revival styles.
Stevensville residents have used the National Register as an effective tool to commemorate their pasts but also to lay the foundation for a 21st century future in the midst of the some of the most rapid growth in the state.