Quinn’s Garage in Augusta, which appears to have been built around a historic blacksmithing bay, is under consideration for listing on the National Register of Historic Places.
The original blacksmith shop on Main Street was either built or bought by Truffle Bergeron around 1899, and the building still holds a tree stump cut off at floor level, which may have served as a pedestal for an anvil. The blacksmith’s area is separate from adjacent space that was used as an office and an auto repair shop during the period when mechanized vehicles replaced horses.
The exterior of the building’s walls are formed by ornamental off-white cast concrete blocks, which probably were made on site before being lifted into place in 1917, shortly after Frank Quinn took over the business.
Quinn also was a blacksmith, but by 1916 was advertising automobile sales and service. In addition, he was a mail route carrier, and sold radios and other small items out of his garage.
Social gatherings also occurred at Quinn’s Garage, which was dubbed “Quinn’s Club” in a 1930 article in the Independent Record newspaper. Apparently county commissioners and constituents would convene after meetings in town, with Quinn providing “drink and old stories.”
“Quinn’s Garage is an outlier in Augusta for its concrete block construction,” said John Boughton, the national register coordinator for the State Historic Preservation Office. “That, along with its great history of serving Augusta and the nearby community, makes it an obvious choice for listing in the National Register.”
In the nominating paperwork, Boughton and acting State Historic Preservation Officer Peter Brown wrote that the garage is associated with the Augusta area’s homestead-era development, consistent with Montana’s homestead boom between 1900 and 1918.
Brown and Boughton added that this shift in population coincided with the shift in transportation from horse-drawn conveyances to the internal combustion engine and geared implements.
Richard Kenck later operated an implement business out of the Quinn’s Garage for 28 years, which included serving as a dealer for International Harvester farm equipment.
Boughton and Brown note that from 1917 to 1975, the building housed businesses that connected with multiple generations of nearly every farm or ranch family in the area.
“The multiple cattle brands forged in the building, whose impressions are seared into the wood partition inside the building, attests to earliest reliance of the area’s population of the services provided out of what is referred to as Quinn’s Garage,” the nomination states.
Augusta was first settled in 1879, with its post office established in 1884. In August of 1901, a fast-moving fire destroyed almost the entire Augusta business district in a little more than two hours. Brown and Boughton note that “Interestingly, the fire destroyed all the saloons in town, yet spared the churches, allowing Augusta to wear the ‘most moral town in Montana’ mantle for several years.”
By 1914, the town peaked with 22 businesses on the main street including three general stores, three saloons, a movie theater, cleaners and lumberyard. Today, Augusta is home to about 400 people.
Several historic buildings in the immediate vicinity of the garage, including the wood-framed Mack’s General Store, retain sufficient integrity that the area could become a historical district, Boughton and Brown note in the nominating paperwork.
The building currently is owned by Lynn Kenyon, who operates “forge” antiques out of the building.
“We are thrilled to be the first building in Augusta to be nominated,” Kenyon said. “The integration of an antiques store in an old historic building is an ideal use. We hope to maintain the integrity of the building, which has been neglected for decades.”
The nomination for Quinn’s Garage is being forwarded to the National Park Service for consideration. National Register listing provides a property recognition for its historic value and rewards efforts in preserving it. Listing of a building, site, or district also affords prestige that can enhance its value and raise community awareness and pride. While National Register properties don’t have to be preserved, listing does ensure that preservation is taken to be an important consideration whenever a building’s or site’s future is in question.