A variety of back-roads history tours and talks on historic preservation are on tap this week in Red Lodge, which is hosting the third Montana Preservation Road Show.
Organized by the Montana Preservation Alliance and numerous other partners, the road show debuted in Dillon in 2012 and continued in Lewistown in 2014. This year, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the passage of the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, the Red Lodge road show is expanding from three days to four to accommodate more speakers and day tours.
Other than that expansion, said Carl Davis, who helped create the biannual event, “the model has seemed to work very well. From the first one in Dillon to this one, we have tweaked it very little. And we’ve had very high customer appreciation.”
Highlights of this year’s road show, which will run Wednesday through Saturday, are full-day tours exploring homesteading and ethnic heritage in the Red Lodge area; prehistoric rock art and Native American history in the Pryor Mountains; historic barns; and the influence of the Crow Indian Tribe in Stillwater County.
There will also be half-day tours to the Smith Mine and the town of Bearcreek; a tour of historic sites in the Custer National Forest; a trip on the Beartooth Highway in authentic Yellowstone Buses; and horse-drawn wagon and walking tours of Red Lodge.
One of the more interesting workshops will be one looking at the revitalization of the old Roosevelt Middle School in downtown Red Lodge. The Red Lodge Area Community Foundation is working to convert the old school into a performing arts space.
Other workshops will examine heritage tourism and downtown revitalization, what goes into getting a building on the National Register of Historic Places and obtaining historic preservation funding.
Among the speakers will be Kimber Craine, director of program initiatives for the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities in Washington, D.C. She will speak Wednesday night at 7 in the Roman Theater on the impact of historic preservation on cultural tourism over the past 50 years.
During a breakfast presentation Thursday at 8 a.m. in the gymnasium of old Roosevelt School, Carroll Van West, author of “A Traveler’s Companion to Montana History,” will reflect on three decades of documenting Montana’s rural historic sites, with success stories and recommendations on where to go from here.
At a dinner Thursday night at the Rock Creek Resort ballroom, Barbara Stahl, senior vice president for field services, National Trust for Historic Preservation, will talk about the future of preservation and how stewardship of public lands and rural places is a key part of protecting the legacy of America’s past.
A complete agenda for the four-day road show is available on the Montana Preservation Alliance website.
Davis said he was working as the regional archaeologist for the Northern Region of the U.S. Forest Service in Missoula when he partnered with the preservation alliance to develop the first Montana Preservation Road Show.
Davis said he was looking for some way to bring together people who were working on different aspects of historic preservation but rarely collaborated. The Forest Service had funds available for stewardship projects, so he approached the Montana Preservation Alliance to talk about the possibility of using that as seed money for putting on the first road show.
The concept had worked in other states, he said, and Dillon was chosen for the first road show partly because Davis was from there and knew the area well. The alliance brought in other partners, including the Bureau of Land Management, Humanities Montana, the Montana Historical Society, Montana State Parks, local museums and other nonprofits, civic groups and agencies.
As Davis said in a letter to Forest Service headquarters in Washington, D.C., after the first two road shows, the main aims of the program were to “educate people from Montana about historic preservation in their communities; forge new partnerships and strengthen preservation efforts across the state; enhance Montana’s cultural tourism; and inspire Montanans’ love of place and cultural history.”
In conjunction with this year’s road show and the 50th anniversary of the National Historic Preservation Act, Davis said, the preservation alliance is leading a project to create a print and Web guide to interesting archaeological and historical places on Montana public lands.
One of the local partners working on this year’s road show is the Carbon County Historical Society Museum. Director Debbie Brown said that in addition to taking part in the road show, the museum is celebrating its annual Founders Day by offering free admission to the museum on Friday and Saturday.
After the opening lecture Wednesday evening at the Roman Theater, the museum will host a dessert reception from 8:15 to 9:30 p.m., which will include behind-the-scenes tours of the museum’s second- and third-floor storage areas.
Brown said it has been a thrill working with the Montana Preservation Alliance to help put on the road show.
“It’s an awesome bunch of people,” she said. “They’ve been wonderful to work with.”
Bonus activity: Registration for the four-day road show starts Wednesday at noon in the old Roosevelt School, 517 S. Broadway in Red Lodge, but there will no-host pre-conference tours at Pictograph Caves and Chief Plenty Coups state parks.
A ranger-guided tour at Pictograph Caves will start at 10. You can bring your own lunch and eat on the grounds afterward, then head to Pryor for a ranger-guided tour of Chief Plenty Coups State Park at 1:30. You’ll have plenty of time to get to Red Lodge for the evening activities.