Helena mining man W. C. Child initiated this ranch about 1885, as the “White Face Farm” stocked with some of the first purebred Herefords in Montana Territory. Then came the infamous “Hard Winter of 1886-87,” when deep snows and months of freezing temperatures followed drought years that had left feed sparse. Open-range cattle herds were decimated. When spring arrived, Child built the massive fieldstone barn, 55 feet tall and 100 square feet on both lower level and loft, along with other stone outbuildings. The barn held stalls for 500 cattle and could store 350 tons of hay; it is Montana’s largest barn. Shortly after its construction came that of the octagonal ranch house, which runs 20 feet on a side. With his permanent residence in Helena, Child used the structure only for meetings and parties; guests arrived via Child’s personal railroad car. The house’s entire second floor was an open ballroom. The Silver Panic of 1893 ruined Child financially, and he died that same year. As the ranch passed from owner to owner, its buildings deteriorated over the years until the Paul Kleffner family began restoration in 1943.

Images

W. C. Child Ranch W. C. Child Ranch, State Highway 279, Helena, Lewis and Clark County, MT Digital ID: hhh mt0014.photos.100605p Call Number: HABS MONT,25-HEL.V,1- Source: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington DC Creator: Historic American Buildings Survey, creator Date: Documentation compiled after 1933
W.C. Child, portrait Studio portrait of W.C. Child Catalog # 941-710 Source: Montana Historical Society Research Center Photograph Archives, Helena, MT Creator: Unidentified photographer. Date: [no date]
Child Ranch Child Ranch. Side to front view of the barn in the foreground and a front view of the ranch house in the background, facing south from the property grounds near MT Highway 518. Source: Montana State Historic Preservation Office Creator: Photographer unidentified Date: Date unknown

Location

305 Highway 518, East Helena, Montana | Private

Metadata

The Montana National Register Sign Program, “Child Ranch,” Historic Montana, accessed February 4, 2023, https://historicmt.org/items/show/674.