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On May 4, 1917, Hardin celebrated the “formal opening of the Gay block . . . with a grand ball in the south store room of this magnificent structure.” The storage area’s hardwood floor was perfect for dancing, and construction of the two-story brick business block merited a celebration. Merchant T. E. Gay had hired the Billings architectural firm of Link and Haire to design the structure, only the second architect-designed building in Hardin.
His investment in the $50,000 business block reflected his confidence in the town’s future. In the understated style of the day, Link and Haire ornamented the building with a bracketed cornice, decorative parapet, and a large glass block clerestory that visually separated the first and second floors. Recognizing that many of his customers would be farmers in town for the day, Gay had a “commodious ladies’ rest room” included in the plans.
Among the five businesses occupying the first floor, Gay’s hardware and implement store was by far the largest. Tenants of the second-floor’s twenty-two offices included attorneys, physicians, and the Hardin Chamber of Commerce.
Cover image: Fredric L. Quivik via Official records of the Montana State Historic Preservation Office, Helena, Montana.