First Baptist Church, Stevensville

The Stevensville Baptist congregation first organized as the Etna Baptist Church of Christ at the nearby Etna schoolhouse in 1882. In 1884, the growing membership purchased land in Stevensville and hired talented Missoula architect Thomas W. Longstaff to draw the plans for a church. The building, completed in 1886 at a cost of $2,904.39, is an excellent example of architect Longstaff’s adaptation of the Stick Style. Clapboard siding with decorative vertical, horizontal, and diagonal accents characterize this style, uncommon in Montana. The angles created through external ornamentation are intended to mimic the building’s structural skeleton. The classical symmetry of the floor plan and window placement, lavish Queen Anne style details including fish-scale shingling and beautiful stained glass, and the stick ornamentation blend to produce a statement of surprising elegance for a modest rural church. By 1887, all building expenses had been paid and the congregation had bought an organ. The church included Sunday school and baptismal services in the Bitterroot River. The bell, purchased by the membership from Sears Roebuck for eight dollars, was installed in the square bell tower in 1901. This architectural landmark, important for its association with one of Montana’s most respected architects, is equally significant for its long service as the religious and social center of the local Baptist community.

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402 Church Street, Stevensville, Montana ~ Private