Wibaux Commercial Historic District

Tour curated by: The Explore Big – Montana's Historic Places Team

From its roots as a pre-1900s cattle town to a farming community after the turn of the century, Wibaux well illustrates the transformation borne by many small Montana towns. This historic district reflects the high point of the town’s influence as an agricultural center. The dryland farming movement (1905-1915) brought an influx of settlers which in turn increased the number of farms and eliminated open range cattle ranching. Wibaux experienced a shift from the stockyard industry to agricultural trade. When a devastating fire swept away the principal business blocks in the district in 1906, the frame, false-fronted buildings and board sidewalks became a thing of the past. One- and two-story closely grouped brick buildings constructed between 1905 and 1917 replaced most of the frame structures. Today these give the district its architectural cohesiveness, featuring transitional stylistic elements between Classical Revival and the more modern “Prairie” school of commercial design. In 1910 alone, commercial construction expenditures exceeded $92,000, and Wibaux supported almost 50 businesses. The town had come a long way from its 1880 origins and its lively reputation as one of the “toughest towns north of the Rio Grande.”

Locations for Tour

Prominent resident Stephen B. Chappell was the main financial contributor and owner of this magnificent edifice constructed in 1911. The building combines two structures that are unified by a single façade treatment. The Chappell Hotel, First State…

Harold G. Clark and Orlando Burgess, owners of the Clark Hardware Company, constructed this one-story brick and stucco commercial building in 1916. Representative of the period of Wibaux’s major economic development, it originally housed the…

In 1910, J. C. Kinney and other local capitalists created the Wibaux Improvement Company to build this handsome two-story business block. Contractor Charles Charmichael of Miles City constructed the “large and commodious building … faced with a…

Constructed during Wibaux’s transition period from a cattle town into an agricultural center, this Queen Anne commercial style building originally housed the Smith Saloon. Partners William H. Smith, John R. Cornell, and W. H. North built the saloon…

Brothers Burl and William Woodburn collaborated to construct this substantial commercial building in 1917. The Masonic Temple was located on the upper floor and the Woodburn Brothers Grocery occupied the ground space until the building changed hands…