Cowboy Bar and Museum
Great Falls West Bank Historic District
Former Great Falls “cowhands” held a reunion in 1938. Now grown men, as boys they had earned money herding local milk cows in and out of town each day or driving range cattle through the city streets. Membership soon expanded beyond Great Falls, and over 300 former cowboys attended the Montana Cowboys Association’s second annual reunion banquet in 1939. Association President Bill Shea donated the land for a meeting hall and museum dedicated to preserving memories of cowboy life. The Cowboys worked with the National Youth Association (NYA) to build the museum, completed in 1941. A New Deal program designed to provide work for youth between sixteen and twenty-five, the NYA intentionally adopted labor intensive designs and techniques to maximize employment. The result was a well-crafted stone and log building, whose Rustic style evoked the museum’s intention of glorifying the Old West. Later additions expanded the facility, which houses a bar, noted for its cowboy hospitality, and a museum of over 500 artifacts—from rifles and saddles to a Kimball-Reed organ, brought to Montana by steamboat in 1876.