Paradise School

For over one hundred years, the Paradise School served as the educational and social center of this working-class railroad, timber, and agricultural community. After the Northern Pacific Railway (NP) completed its transcontinental line through Montana Territory in 1883, it established towns and support facilities across its routes. By 1908, the NP had built the “Low Line,” running along the Clark Fork River from St. Regis to Paradise, where a new tie-treating plant—one of two such plants along the route—was in full operation. The NP Hotel and “beanery” cafe, three general stores, two drug stores, Catholic and Protestant churches, a post office, meat market, pool hall, icehouse, and bakery comprised the business district. The town, which had three-hundred people in 1910, outgrew its original one-room school. The NP donated land just south of town, and Missoula husband-and-wife architects, John and Josephine Kennedy, designed this elegant, four-room, brick school with Italian Renaissance and Craftsman style details. From its opening in 1910 through to the 1960s, teachers and community members rallied to improve the school, enhancing heating, plumbing, and building finishes, and adding a playground, bus transportation, an athletics program, and music enrichment. Although the school initially served all grades, high school students began commuting via train to Thompson Falls in 1926. Always tied to the railroad and timber industry’s health, Paradise School’s enrollment fell throughout the 1970s, especially after 1982 when the tie plant ceased operations. Though the school closed in 2013, dedicated residents transformed the school into a community, arts, and visitors’ center in 2016.

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2 School House Hill Road, Paradise, MT ~ public