Pony, as a gateway into the Tobacco Root Mountains, may be categorized as a ghost town in much of today’s literature about Montana, but it certainly has a lot of real people hanging around to be a ghost town. Established during the gold rush decade of the 1860s, mines here stayed in operation until World War II, and consequently, a wide range of historic buildings remain in the town today.
I explored Pony in 1984–and was captivated by what was there, especially its superb neoclassical styled state bank building. Here is where historic preservation has helped make a difference. In 1987 the state historic preservation office approved the Pony Historic District to the National Register–a reflection of the town’s significance, its extant historic architecture, but most importantly the determination of its residents and property owners that the town would survive into the 20th century.
The Pony School–another impressive neoclassical design–and the Craftsmanesque gymnasium/community center, which is from the New Deal era, overlook the town, and remain in good condition. Other community institutions include extant frame and concrete block churches, both in Gothic style, and the Mt. Jefferson Masonic Lodge building.
Besides the all-important Pony bar and the bank, other historic business structures remain in different states of repair, such as the brick law office, and the frame two-story general store seen below.
The range of domestic architecture in Pony is also significant, from grand brick Queen Anne style homes to more vernacular and Gothic styled influenced gable-front and wing dwellings. Another noteworthy home is the frame, two-story dwelling of the Pony park keeper.
Yes, Pony has a park, another of positive developments since my work in 1984-1985. The park is not only community space, but it also has various artifacts and machinery from the mining era, along with public interpretation of the district’s history and of the artifacts within the park.
Pony is one of those jewels of Montana, a place loved by residents, valued by those who discover it. Let’s hope that the historic district keeps it for generations to come.