Of the 2,500 Civil War veterans who lived in Montana in the 1890s, 25 of them resided on county poor farms. The politically powerful veterans' organization, the Grand Army of the Republic (G.A.R.), insisted that these men deserved better. In 1895 the state legislature responded to G.A.R. demands, authorizing establishment of a soldier’s home on forty acres of donated, tillable land located at least a mile from any saloon or liquor store. Originally, the home was intended to be relatively self-sufficient, with all able-bodied residents participating in planting, harvesting, and storing crops. Eight communities vied for the institution, but Columbia Falls offered the most attractive package. Local citizens donated $3,100 and the Northern Improvement Co., a subsidiary of the Great Northern Railway, donated 147 acres and free installation of a boiler, pump, engine, and tanks. In 1896, the state laid the cornerstone for Old Main, designed by Montana architect C. S. Haire and built by Montana builder and politician Fred Whiteside. In 1900, Haire also designed a small hospital, which became the Commandant’s House when a larger hospital (since demolished) was built in 1908. Constructed in 1919, the Service Building provided a chapel for religious services and living quarters for the home's employees. The cemetery, established in 1897, and the landscaped grounds also contribute to the Montana State Soldier’s Home Historic District. Today newer buildings dot the landscape, but the home’s mission remains unchanged: to honor the service of Montana’s veterans by serving them in turn in their time of need.