Big Horn County Library

419 N Custer Ave Hardin

Hardin Historic Commercial District/Big Horn County Library
Montana Historical Society
Written By Montana Historical Society

We share Montana's story through our resources: art, books, artifacts, photos, and even buildings we've helped preserve.

Hardin women began raising money for a library in 1909. Numerous fundraisers followed, and in 1912 a hundred-book library opened in the home of Walter and Ella Fearis. After the city passed a mill levy in 1914, Walter Fearis wrote library benefactor Andrew Carnegie to solicit funds for a library building. Fearis argued that farmwomen needed somewhere to go while their husbands conducted business. He also believed a library could keep young men from frequenting the community’s saloons.

Carnegie’s secretary initially refused the request because the young town of Hardin did not appear on his outdated map. Ultimately, however, Carnegie donated $15,000 on condition that the county provide a building site and $1,500 in annual support. The county did so, noting that a “Free Library would be a good thing.”

Architect C. L. Pruett designed the Neoclassical one-and-one-half-story building in accordance with Carnegie guidelines. A 1987 addition expanded the library while shifting the entrance from the west to the south. However, visitors can still distinguish the original hipped-roof structure, welcomed amid much fanfare when it opened its doors in 1919.

Cover image: Montana Historical Society Research Center Photograph Archives, Helena, Montana.

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