Fort Benton Engine House

The Fort Benton Engine House, built in 1883, and the Grand Union Hotel are two of only a few structures remaining to remind us of the rapid expansion here during the flourishing steamboat days. When Fort Benton incorporated in 1883, a volunteer fire department was organized and a contract let for $1,710 to build this engine house. By fall, the building was complete and thirty-five men organized into three companies of firemen were ready to drill—but the firefighting equipment wintered at Cow Island because the steamboat bringing it up the Missouri met low water at season’s end (not an uncommon situation). The gear was brought on to Fort Benton by ox wagon the following spring. This building served as City Hall for more than seventy-five years, until 1966, and from 1899 it housed the city jail. Its use today as a public meeting hall for service organizations recalls the past use as a center for social activities as well as for waiting firefighters.

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Front and 15th Streets, Fort Benton, Montana ~ Public