Once again MPA honored another group of inspiring preservationists at our Preservation Excellence Awards ceremony on September 19. Every year it is our pleasure to applaud them at an elegant party. By honoring their enthusiasm and hard work we hope to inspire others and encourage new preservation projects around the state. And the winners are . . .
Rialto Theater, Deer Lodge
The Rialto Community Theater Board and Martel Construction were honored for their outstanding work to rehabilitate their community theater after a devastating fire in 2006. Now, six years and $3.5 million later, the beloved Rialto has been restored and is open once again. Rialto Board President Steve Owens’ enthusiasm allowed his community to reach a seemingly impossible goal, and in the end gifted the town with a carefully preserved facility that is an inspiration and historic preservation model for all.
Keim Building, Missoula
Mark Kersting spent the last 10 years restoring the Keim Building, an 1890s brick storefront building in Missoula’s Historic North Side Railroad District. The building was threatened with demolition when Kersting bought it in 2000 and he jumped in with gusto on an extensive restoration. He hired contractors to fix the failing roof system, but did most work himself, including stripping, restoring and repairing every wall surface inside and out. As a result, the now spectacular Keim building has others in the neighborhood spiffing things up. Click on the image for more.
Bob Valach, Lewistown
Over the past 30 years, Bob Valach, a third generation masonry contractor from Lewistown, has been instrumental in preserving the “City of Stone,” and in planning for historic resources across Montana. Working first with his father, Frank Valach, and now with his son, Joel, Bob’s impressive list of restoration projects includes the Bair home in Martinsdale, the White Sulphur Springs Castle, and dozens of historic Lewistown landmarks. In addition, Bob volunteers many hours of his time serving on boards and commissions locally and statewide. His dedication to historic preservation both in the meeting room and on the job site is invaluable to the Treasure State.
Mike Schaer, Billings
Mike Schaer has spent many years working to revitalize the downtown Billings Depot Historic District. In the 1990s, he spearheaded the effort to revitalize Montana Avenue, leading property owners to put up half the $1.2 million cost of street work and landscaping. He started by locating his business along Montana Avenue, and later created the McCormick Cafe, the Log Cabin Bakery, Club Carlin nightclub and hotel, Cafe Italia, Rue D’Artistes, and rehabbed other buildings for galleries, antique shops, offices, a yoga studio, Venture Theater, parking lots, and more. Schaer’s longtime neighborhood friend, Gene Burgad of the Rex, is emphatic about Schaer’s accomplishments, “Nobody has done more for this area than Mike Schaer.”
Marsha Fulton & Crystal Alegria - Extreme History Project
In a very short time, Marsha Fulton and Crystal Alegria of the Extreme History Project have made great strides to educate the public about Fort Parker and the Crow Tribe. In 2012 alone they collected hours of oral history interviews with key Crow tribal elders; brought students from MSU Billings College of Technology to perform 3D scanning of site remains; gave lectures about Fort Parker; and foremost, brought together land owners and the Archaeology Conservancy to negotiate purchase of the site for permanent preservation. Fulton and Alegria are honored for their enthusiasm and ongoing outreach to preserve Crow tribal history.
Chris Weatherly, Stevensville
For nearly 30 years,Chris Weatherly has worked to restore many of western Montana’s premier historic buildings including Historic St. Mary’s Mission, Chief Plenty Coups Cabin, Travelers’ Rest State Park, and Fort Owen. Weatherly has also donated his time and skill to other landmarks, including the Hangman’s Building in Virginia City, the Stevensville and Ravalli County Museums, and the Fort Missoula Barracks Building. He has also served for many years as the President of the Stevensville Historical Museum. In 2010, Weatherly was named Stevensville Citizen of the Year. He is deserving of much recognition and honor for all his contributions to saving heritage in western Montana.
Kennon Baird – Helena As She Was website
Editor Kennon Baird and Helena As She Was website contributors were recognized for creating and continually expanding www. HelenaHistory.org, a simple, fun and easily accessible history website for Helena history enthusiasts. Since 2006, the website has welcomed more than 100 contributors of Helena-related images and ephemera. The site is commercial-free and free to access; an average of 60 people per day visit. They come from almost every state in the union and from many foreign nations. Furthermore, the Helena As She Was Facebook page has an astounding 3,400-plus followers – a reach that is 10 times what many state and local history museums enjoy. This model website is an inspiration for other historical organizations to follow.