Filed Under Big Arm

Big Arm School

The 1887 Dawes Act gave Congress the power to survey Indian reservations, assign land (allotments) to individual Indians, and open the remaining land to homesteaders. Although tribal leaders, including Chief Charlo and Sam Resurrection, resisted allotment of the Flathead Reservation, the U.S. government opened the 1.2 million acre reservation to homesteading in 1910. Within a year, the Montana School Board established Big Arm School District #65. For a brief period, white and Indian children attended separate schools, but in the mid-1910s, the community built Big Arm School, which served all area students. The gable-roofed, clapboard-sided school followed best practices for small school design. Near the entry were two cloakrooms. Health professionals believed that “cross-lighting” harmed pupils’ eyes, so builders placed a single band of windows on the north wall to let in light. Two outhouses, a modest distance apart, served boys and girls respectively. At lunch, students would heat jars of soup brought from home on the wood stove before going out to play softball, red rover, or kick-the-can. Increased teachers’ salaries and better roads led to students being transported to Polson and to the school's closure in 1952. However, the building was always more than a school: it continued as a community dance hall, polling place, and club room long after the school district officially abandoned the building. In 2008, the school had been boarded up for almost a decade when the Big Arm Association started restoration work to preserve the building. In 2011, the school once again became the center of the Big Arm community.

Images

Big Arm Schoolhouse
Big Arm Schoolhouse View of restored schoolhouse. In 2011 the enclosed entry was removed and the original entrance restored. Source: Montana Preservation Alliance Creator: Montana Preservation Alliance Restoration Team Date: Aug 2011
Big Arm Schoolhouse
Big Arm Schoolhouse Front view of Big Arm Schoolhouse. The facade was restored in 2011 to its original appearance. Source: Montana Preservation Alliance Creator: Montana Preservation Alliance Restoration Team Date: Aug 2011
Big Arm Schoolhouse
Big Arm Schoolhouse Interior view looking north toward Flathead Lake. Perhaps one of the most striking views from any schoolhouse in Montana. Source: Montana Preservation Alliance Creator: Montana Preservation Alliance Restoration Team Date: Aug 2011
Big Arm School
Big Arm School Big Arm School. Side view of the old school building, facing south to southwest near D Street in Big Arm, Montana. Source: Montana State Historic Preservation Office Creator: Alison Meslin Date: Feb. 2007
Big Arm School
Big Arm School Big Arm School. Side view of the old school building, facing north to northeast towards Flathead Lake and Highway 93 and near D Street leading into the property. In the background, both Flathead Lake and the Mission Mountain Range are situated beyond the historic structure. Source: Montana State Historic Preservation Office Creator: Alison Meslin Date: Feb. 2007
Big Arm School
Big Arm School Big Arm School. Front view of the old school building, facing west near D Street in Big Arm, Montana. Source: Montana State Historic Preservation Office Creator: Alison Meslin Date: Feb. 2007
Big Arm School
Big Arm School Big Arm School. Rear view of back door, facing east with a view of the residential houses in the background. Source: Montana State Historic Preservation Office Creator: Alison Meslin Date: Feb. 2007

Location

7th and D Streets, Big Arm, Montana | Public

Metadata

The Montana National Register Sign Program, “Big Arm School,” Historic Montana, accessed May 30, 2024, https://historicmt.org/items/show/669.