Filed Under Columbus

Stillwater County Courthouse

Carved out of Yellowstone, Carbon, and Sweet Grass Counties in 1913, Stillwater County was one of twenty-six counties established between 1910 and 1920. These new counties grew from a widespread belief in Montana’s continuing growth and prosperity—sustained by the arrival of thousands of homesteaders. The Progressive Era’s commitment to representative, responsive government also argued for smaller counties, placing county seats within easy reach. Stillwater County originally provided services from a rented building on Pike Avenue, in Columbus. In March 1918, commissioners of the flourishing county decided to build a temple to justice. World War I caused them to defer their plans so as not to divert funds and materials from the war effort, but when the war ended, so did the economic boom. Drought and low commodity prices brought hardship to farmers, ranchers, and business owners. Nevertheless, county residents voted to support a $75,000 bond in 1919. Billings architect Warren A. Dedrick designed the Neoclassical style brick courthouse. Two-story Ionic columns flank the main entrance of the imposing building, which is trimmed throughout with “artificial” stone. Budget shortfalls dogged the project after struggling citizens rejected a second bond issue in 1920. When county officials moved into the courthouse in May 1921, much of the interior remained incomplete. However, Stillwater County persevered over the years, slowly finishing construction and landscaping. The courthouse’s Neoclassical details denote permanence and remain a symbol of civic pride and commitment to democratic ideals, with the building serving as the center for local government, law, and justice.

Images

Stillwater County Courthouse
Stillwater County Courthouse Facade Source: Montana Historical Society Creator: Bryan Baldwin Date: July 22, 2022
Stillwater County Courthouse, Columbus, MT
Stillwater County Courthouse, Columbus, MT View looking west at Stillwater County Courthouse with the Norton House at left. Source: Museum of the Beartooths, Columbus, MT Creator: unknown photographer Date: 1921
Stillwater County Courthouse, Columbus, MT
Stillwater County Courthouse, Columbus, MT View looking west southwest at Stillwater County Courthouse Source: Museum of the Beartooths, Columbus, MT Creator: unknown photographer Date: ca. 1930
Stillwater County Courthouse, Columbus, MT
Stillwater County Courthouse, Columbus, MT View looking southwest at Stillwater County Courthouse with the Norton House at left. Source: National Register of Historic Places nomination form for Stillwater County Courthouse. On file at Montana State Historic Preservation Office, Helena, MT. Creator: Joan Brownell, photographer Date: 2019
Stillwater County Courthouse, Columbus, MT
Stillwater County Courthouse, Columbus, MT View looking southwest at Stillwater County Courthouse Source: National Register of Historic Places nomination form for Stillwater County Courthouse. On file at Montana State Historic Preservation Office, Helena, MT. Creator: Joan Brownell, photographer Date: 2019
Stillwater County Courthouse, Columbus, MT
Stillwater County Courthouse, Columbus, MT View looking south at Stillwater County Courthouse Source: National Register of Historic Places nomination form for Stillwater County Courthouse. On file at Montana State Historic Preservation Office, Helena, MT. Creator: Joan Brownell, photographer Date: 2019

Location

400 East 3rd Ave North, Columbus, MT

Metadata

Montana National Register Sign Program, “Stillwater County Courthouse,” Historic Montana, accessed June 18, 2024, https://historicmt.org/items/show/2853.