St. Joseph's Catholic Church, Hardin

St. Joseph’s Catholic Church of Hardin was founded by Jesuit missionaries to the Crow Indians. Fr. Thomas Grant of St. Francis Xavier’s Mission purchased three town lots for $425 in 1908. The Jesuits constructed a plain, gable-front wooden building at the corner of Custer and Fourth, where each month one of the Fathers would come to say mass. In 1913, Fr. Grant paid $1,000 for a block of land on which to build a permanent church. Under canon law, only masonry churches—which were expected to hold at least 250 parishioners—could be consecrated as permanent structures. St. Xavier Mission Superior Father Louis Taelman estimated in 1916 that such a church would cost $6,000 to build. Post–World War I inflation and design changes brought the building’s final cost to between $15,000 and $20,000. To help fund construction, the parish sold the temporary church in 1917. While Omaha contractor J. W. Russell began work on the new church in spring 1919, Fr. Taelman held services in the downtown Sullivan Block. Fr. Taelman held the first mass in the new church on Christmas Day 1919. The church basement served as both rectory and parish hall. Although the interior was remodeled in 1938, the exterior retains the classic Gothic Revival elements that Hardin’s early congregations favored for their churches. In St. Joseph’s case, these include a steeply pitched roof, pointed windows, simple tracery, a tall tower with an octagonal steeple, brick buttresses, and a raised concrete foundation tooled to look like stone.

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710 North Custer Avenue, Hardin, MT ~ Private