Three Valleys State Bank

Solid bank buildings were designed to assure customers that their money was safe from both theft and bank failure—a tenuous premise in the days before Federal Deposit Insurance. Here Romanesque arches, rusticated sandstone, thick masonry walls, and cavernous entryways marked the first-floor façade and symbolized the bank’s ability to endure, just as had the stone buildings of the Middle Ages. The less elaborate brick second story provided offices for Three Forks’ professionals, including doctors, dentists, and lawyers. Built in 1910, when the town was less than two years old, the sturdy building—financed by John Q. Adams, who founded Three Forks for the Milwaukee Land Company—also expressed its owner’s faith in Three Forks’ future. The bank changed hands several times before American National Bank purchased the seemingly prosperous enterprise in 1917. Soon after, however, extended drought and low commodity prices shattered the homestead economy. Thousands of farmers lost their land, land values dropped by fifty percent, and over half of Montana’s banks failed, including American National in 1923. Two years later, an earthquake shook Three Forks. The quake’s effects can be seen in the blond replacement brick and truncated cornice on the building’s west side. After the bank closed, Adams’ son Benjamin used the building for his real estate office until 1942. Thereafter, it housed a variety of businesses. In 1960, it became a bank once more when Security Bank of Three Forks opened the town’s first bank in thirty-seven years. The building became home to the Headwaters Heritage Museum in 1982.

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202 South Main Street, Three Forks, Montana ~ Private