Montana history rekindled with historic appointments | national news


A classically constructed cabin of tragic fate, as well as a relic of early air travel, could become the last pieces of western Montana included in the National Register of Historic Places.

The Kruse Hut along the North Fork of the Flathead River, the St. Regis Airway Beacon, and the Hall Pavilion near Helena have been identified by the Montana Historical Preservation Office for recognition.

“These nominations show the variety of property types eligible for the National Register,” said Pete Brown, program manager for the State Historic Preservation Office. “Granted, an airway beacon is not something most people think of as a historic site, but it is a utility that facilitated express transportation in the age of trains, long before interstate highways. “

The red and white checkered beacon sits on the mountainside overlooking the Clark Fork River. Its original goal in 1935 was to shine a lighthouse so that planes flying at night could find their way from Minneapolis to Seattle. Technological improvements kept it in service until 2017.

While not exactly a tourist attraction, Montana Historical Society spokeswoman Eve Byron said it has some fascinating features.

“There is a little cabin where the maintenance workers would seek shelter,” Byron said. “Window coverings not only protect windows, but collapse into a table.”

The Billy Kruse Hut near Polebridge also displays neat architecture in its hand-peeled larch log walls set on gables. But his legend of love gone awry anchored him in North Fork lore, historian says John fraley.

“Larry Wilson, the unofficial ‘Mayor of Polebridge’ gave me the early parts of the story,” said Fraley, who published it in his 2017 book “Rangers Trappers and Trailblazers”. “He told all the different versions of how the shooting happened. Then I looked at newspaper reports and death certificates. I even tried unsuccessfully to find Kruse’s grave.

The story begins with Danish emigrant Wilhelm “Billy” Kruse building his 16ft by 18ft cabin in 1925. A lonely bachelor, Kruse began to correspond with a New York woman named Mary Powell. In 1931, she agreed to come and live with Kruse as a “housekeeper / companion” with one of her daughters.

But Kruse often went to work as a shepherd for the US Forest Service. During an extended trip, the Powell women moved to another house owned by neighbor Gustav “Ed” Peterson. It infuriated Kruse when he found out, and he confronted Peterson.

Fraley recalled that after a night of drinking and threats, Kruse shot Peterson but missed him. Peterson retaliated and fatally injured Kruse. The fight took place in the dead of winter and a coroner’s jury had to stand in Polebridge because North Fork was too snowy to make it to a courthouse.

“Most of the jurors were involved in the tragedy,” Fraley said. “They found out that Peterson shot in self-defense, so it was justifiable homicide. Of course, Billy was not available for his side of the testimony.

Mary Powell became a legendary smuggler known as “Madame Queen” throughout the North Fork. The private cabin remains a popular stopover on historical tours of the region.

The third contender, the Hall Bungalow from 1916, reflects its history as a private summer residence and ranch, according to Byron. Two of the original owners, James Hall and John Scoville, lived in Chicago, while the third principal, Harold “Sol” Hepner, was an attorney for Helena who served in the state legislature and as an attorney for the United States. Lewis and Clark County. William Martin, a Chicago resident, was on the Chicago Board of Trade, as were Scoville and Hall. Together, the four men were part of the Hall Ranch Company.

Originally built as a summer house, the house features tongue-and-groove ceilings and floors, a river stone fireplace, and a square piano delivered to Boulder Valley in the early 1800s. Ranch Company sold the property to John “Jack” Lowrie Patten for $ 150,000 in 1919, it was believed to be the largest real estate transaction ever in the county. He renamed the ranch “Lazy T Ranch” and hired up to 22 men to hay and harvest grain.

“If the review board finds these places worthy, it goes to the National Park Service, which is the keeper of the National Register of Historic Places,” Byron said. “It doesn’t place any burden on homeowners – it doesn’t restrict improvements or maintenance. It’s just recognition that this is a special place.

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