Historic preservation work honored at next week’s award ceremony

It’s National Preservation Month and the Great Falls-Cascade County Historic Preservation Advisory Commission is hosting their annual awards ceremony on May 30.

The event is 6-8 p.m. at the C.M. Russell Museum, 400 13th St. N. Light hors d’oeuvres will be served and the public is invited to attend.

During the event, the commission will recognize the preservation of three historic structures in Cascade County.

Descriptions of this year’s award winners follow, based on a narrative written by Suzanne Waring, an HPAC member.

Monarch Depot

The Monarch Depot was built in 1901.

Through many hours of volunteer work and three grants from the Montana History Foundation, the Monarch-Neihart Historical Group restored it from a tumble-down building to its original integrity.

Monarch Depot

The Monarch Deport. Historical photo courtesy of the Great Falls-Cascade County Historic Preservation Advisory Commission.

The first depot that was built in 1891 burned in 1900 and the present building replaced it.

Volunteers have given this second building a comprehensive facelift. On the exterior, the roof, foundation, metal siding and boarding platform were replaced. The freight door, north wall and shiplap were striped of old paint and then restored. The building was rewired. The interior was restored to the original specifications by rebuilding partition walls and replacing wood windows, beadboard and trim. The electrical fixtures, hardware and trolleys were reused.

Moarch Depot current

The restored Monach Depot. Photo courtesy of Great Falls-Cascade County Historic Preservation Advisory Commission.

The Monarch-Neihart Historical Group plans a visitor center with historic displays for the depot.

Among others, Dan Johnstone, Dick Olson Constructions, Al Kunesh, Gene Davidson, Davidson and Kuhr Architects are honored for their work on the Monarch Depot.

Collins Mansion

When the T. E. Collins home on 4th and 9th Street burned around 1890, he and his family decided to rebuild on a hill overlooking the city on the westside at 1003 2nd Ave. N.W. with the intention of attracting more people to build in the area.

T. E. Collins was president of the First National Bank and financed the building of the first brick building in Great Falls. He was active in politics by taking part in the first and second Montana Constitutional Conventions. He introduced the bill to create Cascade County and was nominated by the Democratic Party for governor only to lose by a very small margin.

Collins mansion historic

Built in 1891, the Queen-Anne Victorian Collins Mansion, contained six bedrooms, four fireplaces and a ballroom on the third floor for entertaining. Quarter sawn oak, maple, cherry, birch and eastern pine woodwork and parquet floors accentuate the interior.

The mansion had been a bed and breakfast until 2014, when Michael and Sheri Schmit purchased the mansion as their private home.

collins mansion modern

They set about restoring it by repairing and refinishing floors and woodwork; and painting and plastering walls to regain its historical integrity. On the exterior, stucco repairs and repainting were done. Broken windows, roof and gutters were replaced.

The couple and their son, John, are being honored for their outstanding stewardship and restoration of the Collins Mansion.

C.M. Russell Home

Nancy Russell, wife of western artist Charlie M. Russell, wanted to build a home on the street where the prominent folks lived.

They picked two lots on 4th Avenue North in Great Falls for their modest arts and craft home. Built by neighbor George Calvert in 1900, the story and a half white-frame cottage had a front porch where a person could sit on a summer evening.

Russell house

A small parlor, off the front door, provided a place for Charlie’s guests to sit until he received them. A living room, dining room, full bath and kitchen with a side room that was either a pantry or a maid’s bedroom comprised the rest of the downstairs.

Up a set of narrow stairs were three bedrooms under the gables and a trunk room. A half bath was located on the second floor.

This was the sanctuary that the Russells came home to after their travels, and it was where Charlie died on Oct. 24, 1926.  The home, where the Russells lived for 26 years, is now part of the Charles M. Russell Museum complex.

russell house exterior

The restoration project began several years ago with plaster and wallpaper replacement; door, hardware, and light fixture restoration; floor refinishing; and heating and electrical systems replacement. Exterior restoration included roof replacement, window and porch restoration, and masonry repointing.

The Charles M. Russell Museum staff and its board of directors are being honored for this restoration project.