Thursday, August 13, 2009

Red Bluff ...

One more post today on the theme of loss and regret. My friend Courtney sent me the photo below after reading yesterday's post, and it's one of the more spectacular shots I've seen. It's also one of the saddest.

The Red Bluff mining district is a half-hour or so west of Bozeman, not far from Norris ... and it was a big deal for a few years back in the 1860s. When the boom there ended, the largest landmark that remained was a huge stone building, constructed in 1867 as the home and office of one of the region's early entrepreneurs. It sat there neglected for well over a century, eventually becoming part of an agricultural research facility operated by Montana State University.

Some restoration work was finally done on the building a few years ago, spearheaded in part by an MSU historian named Jeff Safford who'd written a book about the region. It looked pretty good afterwards, and more and more people began recognizing the building's significance ... one of the largest and earliest buildings remaining from Montana's pioneer mining era.

And then in July 2006, the building caught fire ... Courtney happened to be driving through the area and managed to photograph the tragedy. Three of the walls remained standing afterwards, but MSU had never really embraced the building for what it was, since it didn't fit in with the agricultural mission of the site. So there was never a real push to restore it. Now it's gone, and a big part of the region's history is lost ... and I suspect some of the ag guys actually breathed a quiet sigh of relief.

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