Filed Under Billings

Electric Building

Billings was but a fledgling townsite along the Northern Pacific Railroad’s route when the Billings Water Company brought the first electrical current into the settlement in 1887. By 1908, Billings had the lead as a busy agricultural hub. Arrival of the Great Northern Railway and the Enlarged Homestead Act in 1909 brought Billings further to the forefront. At the heart of the dry-land farming movement and the homesteading boom, Billings was the sixth-fastest growing community in the nation. The city’s streetscape mirrored its importance as grand architecture replaced first-generation buildings. The Montana Power Company rivaled Billings’ most impressive architecture with the construction of this five-story landmark in 1914. A testament to the creativity and technical prowess of preeminent Montana architect John G. Link, the unique illuminated façade visually showcased the Montana Power Company and its essential presence in eastern Montana. Link’s design is a visually captivating and complicated expression of stylistic transition. A strong vertical emphasis and white terra cotta-faced surface foreshadow the 1920s Art Deco movement while engaged columns, Corinthian capitals, and gothic-arched cornice embellishments reflect classical revival ideals. An innovative indirect lighting system employed vertical panels of translucent milk glass. Strands of incandescent colored lights, dangled into 50-foot channels, lit the panels. Lights bouncing off the terra cotta facing made the façade appear to glow. Inside are high ceilings, a marbled stairwell, and period tile floors. This grand early Modern style building well reflects the fine talent of its architect and the economic prosperity of Montana’s homestead era.

Images

Electric Building
Electric Building Electric Building (PAc 91-51 Billings CBD R01 F24). Front view of the building, facing northwest on North Broadway. B&W. Source: Montana State Historic Preservation Office from the Photograph Archives at the Montana Historical Society Creator: Photographer unidentified Date: Nov. 1980

Location

113-115 North Broadway, Billings, Montana | Private

Metadata

The Montana National Register Sign Program, “Electric Building,” Historic Montana, accessed May 26, 2024, https://historicmt.org/items/show/2159.