F. M. Mack General Store
Mercantile owner Forrest M. Mack and partner Alfred Strode built this remarkably well-preserved false-front commercial building in 1912 in the now-defunct town of Gilman, two miles east of Augusta. That year, the Great Northern Railway had founded Gilman as the western terminus of a branch line from Great Falls, bypassing Augusta and angering many residents of the already well-established community. Rather than move everything to Gilman, Augusta boosters resisted by lobbying both the railroad and legislators to extend the line to their town. Their efforts were ultimately successful, and the spur to Augusta was complete in 1922. Seeing that Gilman’s economic future was fading, Mack hired a mover to haul the building, in two parts, to this location in 1925. The store sold everything from fruits, vegetables, and meats to clothing, shoes, hardware, and toys. Under Mack’s community-minded direction, it became one of Main Street’s anchor businesses in both commercial and community life until his death in 1966. Designed to give young towns the look of instant prosperity, false-front commercial buildings were once ubiquitous in Montana. Such buildings were constructed in mountain mining towns, plains agricultural communities, and early railroad centers from the 1860s through the early years of the 1900s. With the arrival of local sawmills and, after 1883, railroad-shipped wood and glass building materials, business owners erected substantial wood-frame buildings that projected permanence and stability. Mack’s store, with its elegant, bracketed cornice, hand-painted signage, and full complement of tall display windows is an outstanding example of a once-common western architectural form.