Preservation in Progress

Restoration Team Makes Great Strides at Helena Landmarks

Western Clay Manufacturing Beehive Kilns, Helena

With help from dedicated student interns, volunteers, and Xanterra Preservation crew members from Yellowstone National Park, much work was completed in the summer and fall on the historic beehive kilns and blacksmith shop at the Archie Bray Foundation for Ceramic Arts. Four long-term intern/trainees, and three short-term interns worked with us through the summer to re-point failing masonry, install steel support cables, clear invasive vegetation, and re-roof the deteriorated kiln sheds. "Though the conditions were hot and sometimes cramped, the interns did an amazing job and were so productive," said Matt Morgan, Restoration Director.

In the fall, five members of the Xanterra Parks & Resorts Preservation Crew made the trek to Helena for required preservation training that also helped complete stabilization and roof work on the kiln seven and eight sheds and blacksmith shop. The Xanterra crew spent six days at the Bray practicing masonry, metal, and structural stabilization work. "They were instrumental in helping us complete all the work on the kiln sheds started by interns earlier in the summer, and they also completed a sensitive reroof of the blacksmith shop," said Morgan. In order to arrest deterioration of the blacksmith shop, but keep its weathered patina, the crew gathered metal roofing from the site to completely reroof and dry in the shop. 

For the past five years, MPA has worked with the Archie Bray Foundation to raise funds and preserve these increasingly rare ruins of the former brick making plant. With help from University of Pennsylvania Architectural Conservation program interns, the serious deterioration and imminent collapse of the kilns and surrounding sheds has been averted. The site is an integral part of the experience of visiting the Archie Bray Foundation. Work to stabilize deterioration will allow for increased visitation and interpretation of this important industrial complex that provided much of the masonry to build Helena.

Reeder's Alley

While the mortar was setting at the beehive kilns, Walt Morris led the masonry  team as they tackled more failing rock work closer to home, at MPA Headquarters in the stone house at the top of Reeder’s Alley.  Loose stones and failing walls required many hours to remove mortar, reset many stones and re-point the failing exterior corner of the building. . The before and after photos tell the story and show a significant improvement for the future. Thanks Walt, Matt, Adonis, and intern Sean Kiely for saving MPA HQ! 







Placer School

And if the beehive kilns and MPA office weren't enough stone to tackle, the restoration crew headed east in late August to save the  abandoned and historic Placer School near Winston. The stately stone walls have long been crumbling and in danger of collapsing. Our masonry team shored up the base, and two weeks of work has it on its way to a much better place. The smoke from nearby forest fires was intense, but the crew was successful in stabilizing the worst deterioration. Much work is still needed to fully stabilize the building, and MPA is working closely with the owners to craft a plan for more intervention next year.