Filed Under Chester

First State Bank of Chester

The Great Northern Railway spread its tracks along the windswept Montana Hi-Line in the 1890s and the settlement of Chester emerged, named for the first telegraph operator’s Pennsylvania hometown. The rail line was straightened in 1907 and Chester picked up and moved a quarter mile from its original site to the present location. C. M. Atkins founded the First State Bank of Chester in 1909 and this handsome brick building, by far the most extravagant in town at the time, was completed in 1910. The bank served the prosperous agricultural community during the homestead boom. Like other banks across Montana, First State fell upon hard times as crops failed and homesteaders moved on. The bank closed in 1920, but the building continued to serve the community in a myriad of other ways. Over the years it was a residence, rooming house, bakery, pool hall, barbershop, and hospital, where a former lieutenant governor, Allen Kolstad, was born. Although safety dictated the removal of a second-story turret in the 1950s, Ionic columns, swan’s neck brackets, and graceful curved steps remain to frame the canted entrance. The original oak entry doors, pressed metal ceilings, woodwork, and the bank vault are still in place. Representative of small-town banks that once flourished across Montana, the landmark building is a community centerpiece and central to the town’s history. Students of Chester’s graduating class of 1997 researched and prepared the nomination for listing in the National Register of Historic Places in conjunction with the Montana Heritage Project.

Images

First State Bank of Chester First State Bank of Chester. Front to side view of the building, facing west near the intersection of 1st Street East and Washington Avenue. Source: Montana State Historic Preservation Office Creator: R. Rasmussen Date: Jan. 1997
First State Bank of Chester First State Bank of Chester. Front to side view of the building, facing west to northwest on 1st Street East. Source: Montana State Historic Preservation Office Creator: R. Rasmussen Date: Jan. 1997
First State Bank of Chester First State Bank of Chester. View of the main entry to the building on the corner of 1st Street East and Washington Avenue, facing southwest. Source: Montana State Historic Preservation Office Creator: R. Rasmussen Date: Jan. 1997
First State Bank of Chester First State Bank of Chester. Side view of the building, facing southwest on Washington Avenue. Source: Montana State Historic Preservation Office Creator: R. Rasmussen Date: Jan. 1997
First State Bank of Chester First State Bank of Chester. Rear to side view of the building, facing east to southeast on Washington Avenue. Source: Montana State Historic Preservation Office Creator: R. Rasmussen Date: Jan. 1997

Location

1 1st Street East, Chester, Montana | Private

Metadata

The Montana National Register Sign Program, “First State Bank of Chester,” Historic Montana, accessed December 1, 2022, https://historicmt.org/items/show/836.