City’s history mostly boom with little bust

By TIM STOVER/Montana State News

Bozeman, Montana, is one of the fastest growing cities in the nation.

However, looking at its rich history and vibrant figures, it’s clear that Bozeman has experienced rapid growth since its beginning.

Starting even before Bozeman became incorporated, the city underwent its architectural and urban development phase, the Township Phase from 1864-1872.

According to the city of Bozeman website, organized planning of the town came about “… by a need for a supply center for the booming new mining camps in the Montana territory.”  Simplicity was the goal of the town at that time.

According to the city of Bozeman website, “… most buildings were constructed of simple materials and simple methods. …” Functionality was the only objective. Montana miners were had flooded the area and needed dwellings and establishments to provide for them as easily as possible.

Leading up to its incorporation in 1883, the city of Bozeman underwent a village phase from 1873-1883. This phase was based entirely around transcontinental railroad coming to Bozeman. 

During this phase of the city’s development, Carpenter Gothic became the premiere architectural style for homes while commercial buildings used brick and industrial buildings, wood.

The incorporation of the city in 1883 marked a turn in thinking, and Bozeman sought to become the capital city for the newly-named state of Montana.

According to the city’s historical survey, “The city organized a fire department, purchased a 1,377 volume library, and, by 1890, constructed a city hall. …”

The acquisition or creation of those services allowed the city all the prerequisites to become state capital.

However, the bid to become the capital ultimately failed, though Bozeman was one of four finalists. Instead of becoming the state’s capital city, Bozeman was granted the state’s first college as a consolation prize.

What is today Montana State University was founded under the name “The Agricultural College of the State of Montana” as part of the Morrill Land-Grant Acts of 1862.

However, the college wasn’t founded until 1893 during the city of Bozeman’s Civic Phase.

The land used for the college was given to the state by Nelson Story Sr. who would become a first-ballot Montana Cowboy Hall of Famer inductee.

Nelson Story Sr. is credited with the first major cattle drive from Texas to Montana. History says that Story, along with other cowboys moved at least 1,000 (some say 3,000) Longhorn cattle from Texas to Montana.

These longhorn cattle would become some of Montana’s earliest herds. The drive made Story one of the wealthiest men in town as he was able to make back his initial investment of $10,000 about ten times over.

That $10,000 would be around $160,000 in today’s money, essentially making him a millionaire in one fell swoop.

Story’s money went back into the city. He is remembered for investing in flours mills and real estate.

According to American Cowboy, Story was Bozeman’s largest employer, “… employing more workers than any other business for half a century.”

The Story Mansion, one of Bozeman’s most famous buildings, was built by Story’s son, T. Byron, in 1910. Its architect was the same one who designed Montana’s state capitol building in Helena, C.S. Haire.

The Story Mansion didn’t stay in the Story family for very long, however. According to Friends of the Story Mansion, the building was sold to Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity in 1922, “… during a period of declining fortunes …”

The mansion stayed with the fraternity until 2003 when it was purchased by the city of Bozeman. Friend’s of the Story Mansion is a nonprofit organization designed and co-operated with the city of Bozeman to create “… energized public support for a restored and rehabilitated Story Mansion.”

The Story family’s history in Bozeman runs deep and is multi-generational but it isn’t the only important family for the city’s history.

Not long after the Story Mansion was built in 1910, the Progressive Phase of the city began. According to the city of Bozeman, this period “… was a period of transformation.”

The change was marked by a shift away from agriculture to “… fortunes and directions in the field of industrial production.”

This change is attributed to the college and its desire to move towards more progressive farming methods that incorporated new science and technology.

The college was very influential in the community, even though it was still young, having only been around for twenty years at the start of the progressive phase.

According to the city of Bozeman, the college created “An alliance with community leaders who shared an appreciation of progressive philosophy…” which resulted in “the organization of the Rotary Club, which in 1921 spearheaded a movement to adopt the Commission-Manager form of city government.”

The progressive phase of the city also saw the advent of “auto camping.” According to Renewable Technologies, Inc. of Butte, Montana, auto camping began in Bozeman in “… 1920 at Bogert’s Grove, where tourists could pitch tents beside their automobiles.”

According to the city of Bozeman, “most of these free camps provided water, restrooms, and electric lights.” Auto camping helped bring tourism to Bozeman and allowed tourists to remain close to money-spending hotspots around the city, particularly downtown Bozeman.

Auto camps became necessary as auto campers often just “… camped wherever they wanted beside the road,” according to the city’s website. This led to an issue with rural families as they “… grew tired of hosting unwanted visitors in their fields and orchards …”

The auto camps made Bozeman’s rural residents happy by giving them their space back and it made Bozeman’s merchants happy because it allowed tourism to be more centrally located.

The Progressive Phase of Bozeman’s history was preceded by a Nationalization Phase in 1930-1945, getting Bozeman through the Great Depression and the second World War.

During this phase, the bond between Montana State College and the city grew even deeper.

According to the city of Bozeman, Montana State College’s extension service, “… became Montana’s principal actor in New Deal farm policy.”

This allowed Montana State College to become even more a part of the city and the state’s infrastructure as the college had “… presence in every county in the state …” that helped lead to “… finding technical solutions to agricultural problems,” according to Renewable Energy Technologies.

The Nationalization Phase was followed by the city’s longest phase of building, the Postwar Expansion Phase.

Like many cities in America, Bozeman saw much growth after the second World War.

According to the city of Bozeman, the population grew by “… 65 percent between 1950 and 1970 …” with most of the increase coming “… after 1960 when the population was just 13,361,” up to 18,670 in 1970.

With the population increase in Bozeman, the city’s architecture transitioned from a Minimal Traditionalist style to a ranch style or a Contemporary style.

The change in population and architecture also marked the beginning of the migration away from downtown towards what would become two of the new focal points of the city: Nineteenth Avenue and Seventh Avenue.

The growth in Bozeman’s population and an increase in popularity as a tourist destination saw the Montana State College become Montana State University in 1965 after the university saw a 400 percent increase in student population from 1945 to 1965.

The growth in Bozeman and the university never really stopped. According to Forbes, in 2010, Bozeman was cited as the third “Fastest-Growing Small Town.”

The growth trend continued in 2014-2015 when the city saw a 4.2% increase in population year over year according to the U.S. Census.

Regardless of Bozeman’s architectural or historical phase, or it’s important historical figures, the city has undergone major growth and population since it’s inception.

With the help of Montana State University, Bozeman continues to be a tourist hotspot and ever-expanding city.

– edited by Bay Stephens

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