The Montana Historical Society’s State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) is offering $350,000 in the Revitalizing Montana’s Rural Heritage (RMRH) grant program to support the preservation of historic buildings in rural communities across the state.
This brick-and-mortar grant comes from the National Park Service’s (NPS) Historic Revitalization Subgrant Program (HRSP), funded by that agency’s Historic Preservation Fund. SHPO is among nine entities nationwide to obtain HRSP funds in the program’s inaugural year. The state agency will award grants between $10,000 and $100,000 for physical repairs and improvements to rural properties listed in or eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places. All work must meet the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties.
SHPO Community Preservation Coordinator Kate Hampton says, “The RMRH grant will be a tool for rural communities eager to capitalize on their built heritage. It will help re-establish under-utilized buildings to strengthen towns socially and economically. The ideal candidate property is one that would be a hub for locals and a draw for tourists.”
SHPO’s idea for the RMRH program came from seeing home-grown preservation projects in a few rural communities across the state. Ekalaka established its town hall and library in an empty bank the town preserved; one by one, Phillipsburg’s commercial building owners re-invented the town by repainting their Victorian-era building facades; and Deer Lodge’s Rialto Theater rose from the ashes of a devastating fire to maintain its status as the community’s gathering place on Main Street.
“We saw community buy-in with these pioneering projects,” SHPO Historic Architecture Specialist Pete Brown said. “They were restorative architecturally, but also restorative in terms of community spirit. We always thought it would be great if SHPO could be in a position to help these projects along monetarily, and now we can.”