John Hepburn Place
Nestled between dramatic cliffs and the Yellowstone River, this collection of buildings catered to the tourist trade between Livingston and Yellowstone National Park. Local entrepreneur John Hepburn came to Montana in 1888 and worked for many years in America’s first national park. In 1906, he filed a homestead claim nearby and ranched until the early 1920s. Hepburn began developing this property in the mid-1930s, crafting the buildings to look like the handiwork of early pioneers. The half-log house doubled as a roadside museum and residence. Hepburn and his son, Ralph, erected a windmill and installed a generator to provide power. Electric windmills were common in early Montana rural homesteads, but this is one of the last intact systems of its kind. Five generations of Hepburns lived at this homestead using wind-generated electricity for light bulbs and other appliances designed for twenty-four volts. John Hepburn again used the wind when he built a unique wind-powered polisher to finish geological specimens he sold to museum visitors. For over two decades, tourists and local school children regularly visited Hepburn’s museum, marveling at its eclectic collection of rare geological specimens, fossils (including a petrified turtle), Native American artifacts, historical photographs, and items that told the story of Yellowstone Park and the upper Yellowstone Valley. When Hepburn died in 1959, the museum closed and his family dispersed the collections to other area museums. Today, the John Hepburn Place offers a rare illustration of the rural use of wind power and is a unique souvenir of Montana’s early tourism industry.