Montana Room

About the Montana Room

What will your find in the Montana Room? Books about the people, places and events that shaped and continue to shape Billings,Yellowstone County and the state of Montana. Microfilm of Billings newspapers from 1882 onward. Yearbooks from city high schools. City directories and old telephone directories. In short, the resources you need to learn about your community. Materials in the Montana Room are not available for checkout, but many of the titles are also available in the nonfiction collection.

We are in search of yearbooks!

We need yearbooks from Billings Central, Senior, Skyview and West High Schools! We are working on digitizing our yearbook collection and adding them to the Montana Memory Project but we have some gaps that we would like to fill.

We are looking for yearbooks that have minimal to no writing in them and do not have missing or torn pages.

The years that we need are:

Central High School – 1945-1946, 1948-1953, 1957, & 1968-current.

Senior High School – 1909-1911, 1913, 1917, 1919, 1943, 1956, 1958, 1972, 1980, 1985, 1994, 1997-1998, 2002, 2011-2012, & 2016-current.

Skyview High School – 2014 & 2016-current.

West High School – 1963, 1967, 1974-1975, 1986, 1990-1992, 1994-1996, 1998-current.

Drop off at the 2nd floor help desk or for more information call Cassie at 657-8258!

Tales From the Archives

These stories come from the archives at Billings Public Library. Buried deep in file cabinets for decades, they are emerging as library staff sort through, re-organize and index them. Some come from newspaper stories from around the state. Some are from correspondence, pamphlets, newsletters or other sources. They tell fascinating stories about the lives and experiences of our fellow Montanans. A new story will be featured most weeks.

J.G. Link, the Architect of Billings

CityHallJohn Gustave Link changed the face of Billings with the buildings he designed, many of which are still in daily use.

Link was born in 1870, and grew up in the Bavarian region of Germany, where he attended from the Royal Academy of Arts and Industries. Following graduation, he came to the United States in 1887 for further study in St. Louis. He started practicing as an architectural draftsman in Denver in 1888. In 1893, he won a prize in a contest for designs for the Minnesota State capitol, and moved back to St. Louis to open his own office. It was in St. Louis that Link met and married Martha Welling.

Link moved to Montana in 1896, first settling in Butte where he supervised the construction of the first School of Mines. In 1900, he came to Billings, and created a partnership with C.S. Haire. They were contracted to build the Billings Brewery and the original Parmly Billings Memorial Library (now the Western Heritage Center). He opened an office in Billings, and moved permanently to the city in 1904, though he maintained offices in Butte and Helena as well. In 1909, Link and Haire designed additions for the state capitol in Helena.

One of the big commissions shortly after his move to Billings was to design the new St. Patrick’s Church (now St. Patrick’s Co-Cathedral). The church was consecrated in 1908, and was built for some $75,000, which included materials, labor, furnishings, and religious fittings and décor. Link evidently felt shorted, and sued the diocese for unpaid fees of $618.95. In April 1909, an ad appeared in the Gazette that the church and the lots it occupied were to be sold at auction to satisfy the lien. Happily for the parish, the suit was settled out of court and the church was not auctioned. As Link was a member of the St. Patrick’s parish, this was likely an awkward time, but he was later retained to design the church’s rectory.

Link and Haire, and later the J.G. Link and Company firm were involved in designing many other prominent projects in Billings. These include Billings City Hall, the Hart-Albin building, the Northern Hotel, St. Vincent’s Hospital, the Masonic Building, the Montana Power building, the Greyhound Depot, numerous churches and schools and many more.

Link designed numerous public buildings around the region, including schools, banks, courthouses and hospitals. His designs were built in Kansas, North Dakota, Wyoming, Idaho, Washington and Oregon as well. Link’s designs also include additions to the Montana State Capitol building in Helena and for the Montana buildings at the World’s Fair in St. Louis in 1904. 

He had other business interests as well. Link was deeply involved in the oilfield developments along the Montana-Wyoming border. He also was interested in mining, and told a harrowing story to the Gazette in 1910 about struggling up a mountainside through heavy snow and camping in three feet of it with his business partner to protect a mining claim. Apparently, they had to be on the site at midnight on New Year’s Eve or their claim expired.

He was active with the Knights of Columbus and the Elks Club. Professionally, he was active with the Montana Chapter of the American Institute of Architects and the Montana Association of Architects, even serving as president of both organizations simultaneously. He also served as president of the state’s Board of Architectural Examiners.

In the early 1920’s Link designed the Fratt building at 2nd Ave N and N 29th St, and as part of his fee, received the former Fratt family home that occupied the site. He had it hauled to 142 Clark Avenue and moved into the three-story home with his wife and children in 1922. Link lived there until his death in 1954 at the age of 83. After that time, it became the home of his daughter and her family. 

Sources: 

Billings Branch, American Association of University Women, The Seven Arts in Billings, 1930-1940, AAUW Billings, 1941
Billings Gazette, “Church Won’t Be Sold”, May 11, 1909
Billings Gazette, “Long Journey to Hold Claim”, January 14, 1910
Billings Gazette, “Pioneer Billings Architect Dies”, January 6, 1954
Billings Gazette, “Sheriff’s Sale”, advertisement, April 14, 1909
Stevens, Karen and Dee Ann Redman, Billings A to Z, Friends of the Library, 2000
Wright, Kathryn, Historic Homes of Billings, Falcon Press, Billings, 1981

Photo Credit:

Billings City Hall, from Billings Public Library collection

Previous Tales from the Archives

Montana History & Local History Online

Can't get enough of that local stuff? Check out these great resources available online