We share Montana's story through our resources: art, books, artifacts, photos, and even buildings we've helped preserve.
In the midst of the Great Depression, the federal Works Progress Administration created jobs across the country in an effort to jumpstart the economy. From 1935 to 1937, the WPA spent $24.6 million in Montana alone, which was matched by $3.4 million in local contributions. Among the larger projects in 1937 was the Big Horn County Courthouse, designed by Billings architect J. G. Link, whose firm designed eighteen of Montana’s fifty-six courthouses. Constructed at a cost of $150,000, the project put over a hundred men to work.
Because regulations stipulated that 90 percent of workers paid with WPA funds had to be on relief, WPA projects often employed unskilled and semi-skilled laborers. Conveniently, the clean lines of the highly fashionable Monumental Deco style used for many WPA projects, including this courthouse, required less skill to build than did other styles.
Simple cast concrete elements decorate the courthouse’s rose-colored ashlar limestone, quarried forty miles south of Hardin. In addition to the courtroom, the two-and-one-half-story building housed a jail, public auditorium, living quarters for the sheriff, and county offices.
Cover image: Official records of the Montana State Historic Preservation Office, Helena, Montana.