As civic reforms swept the nation at the dawn of the twentieth century, Big Timber’s Citizens’ Progressive Party followed national enthusiasm by electing Progressive officials when the city incorporated in 1902. Then on March 13, 1908, a spark from a passing locomotive set fire to the Northern Pacific stockyards. High winds carried flaming embers, starting fires in several places at once. The Livingston fire department arrived by special train to save the community from annihilation, but one-half of Big Timber’s commercial houses and one-third of its homes went up in flames. In the aftermath of this calamity, the civic-minded city council approved construction of a combination town hall and fire hall. Frank Larson submitted a low bid of $4,805 using his own plans and specifications. Constructed in 1909, Larson’s thoughtfully designed building adapts the Western Commercial style of architecture to a civic application. The flag flying atop the belfry, and the fire bell within, signified the building’s official function. An undivided first floor provided space for the fire trucks and equipment, while a three-room second floor housed the council chamber, the “fire laddies,” and a watchman. The hall served Big Timber until 1966. Under the leadership of Mayor John F. Ashbury 1902-1913, the Citizens’ Progressive Party effected numerous civic improvements. Among them is this town hall, a stellar example of Montana’s Progressive era and a worthy example of the town’s role in the national municipal reform movement.

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225 McLeod Street, Big Timber, Montana ~ Public