Sandstone Church Almost as Old as Montana
There are many old churches dotted among the tiny towns and less traveled backroads of Big Sky Country, some abandoned and some still in use. Twenty-five minutes west of Billings in the small town of Park City, you'll find one of the oldest stone churches in Montana. In fact, the building was completed in 1898 just nine years after Montana became the 41st state.
This 123-year-old sandstone, gothic-revival house of worship is likely one of the oldest churches still in use. As settlers arrived by the trainloads in the 1880s, for most communities a church was one of the first permanent buildings to go up and they were often the last building to become boarded up when a flash-in-pan settlement disappeared.
Thankfully, this thick-walled church won't face abandonment, as it was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2010. The largely original building has gone through a few modifications and updates over the years, one necessitated by a high school prank in the 1980s:
A number of changes to the exterior appearance have taken place over the years. The congregation replaced the original wood shingles on the roof and apron of the bell tower several times with asphalt shingles. After local school kids broke the bell in an attempt to steal it in 1984, the open bell tower was enclosed with wood vents and the bell was replaced.
It's hard not to stop and take a picture when you come across an old church in Montana. Even for the non-religious, the architecture and history are fun to see. The attention to detail and care of construction in even the simplest old churches show how important these buildings were to their congregations.
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