HISTORIC ARCHITECTURE: Recontextualizing A Montana Creamery In Wyoming

The original Creamery as it stood abandoned in central Montana.

Discovery remains the root of our design process. Case in point: A rare find by a Montana crew provided the structural core of what we now call the Creamery—an elegant residence acclaimed for its historic and architectural resonance.

While scouring scree fields some 50 miles south of Great Falls, a crew working for our rock supplier Select Stone spotted the craggy silhouette of a crumbling old building. In spite of its collapsed roof, the weathered stone walls stood intact.

If those walls could talk, they would tell a story tracing back to the 18th century, when Queen Catherine the Great of Russia enticed western Europeans to resettle with the promise of land and freedom. Many Hutterites—a religious group founded on communal principals and practice—made the journey from Germany. In the 19th century, political turmoil forced the Hutterites to resettle once again, this time to North America, drawn by the allure of the Homestead Act of 1862. All told, some 400 Hutterites established colonies in Canada and the U.S., including in the golden plains of the Montana Territory. Endeavoring to make a self-sufficient life for themselves, they built a first wave of communal facilities like the dairy and milking station.* Sadly, such colonies faced strife within several decades of laying down roots: As pacifists, the Hutterites suffered persecution during World War I, and many moved farther north to Canada. The Creamery could have been abandoned during this tumultuous time in the Hutterites stateside history.

Only to be rediscovered by Select Stone. Resuming the modern plot line, the crew contacted John Mills, president of Select Stone, and John in turn alerted our principal Paul Bertelli. Scouting the site, Paul instantly imagined the ruin resurrected as a residence. He had the perfect client in mind—a design doyen based in Jackson, WY. Enchanted by the prospect, she purchased the structure on the spot. Carefully cataloguing each and every stone, the ruin was trucked west to Wyoming and painstakingly reassembled by our partners at Big-D Signature—an ambitious endeavor that mirrors the intrepid journey its original builders made more than a century ago.

* To this day, Hutterites contribute to Montana’s economy, working the land surrounding their colonies (now numbering around 50) and selling their fresh produce, eggs, poultry and baked goods at summertime farmers’ markets. Their numbers have grown from the original 400 to approximately 40,000 throughout Canada and the U.S.

ABOUT JLF ARCHITECTS: Building timeless structures rooted in eloquence and elegance, Jackson- and Bozeman-based JLF Architects sources authentic materials and regional solutions to create place-based houses reflective of their contexts, whether that be the Rocky Mountains or the Eastern Seaboard. Our award-winning portfolio features inspired custom designs achieved through a genuine alliance with Big-D Signature, built over 17 years of collaboration. Our streamlined process unites passionate architects with dedicated builders to enable the collective imagination of visionary artisans working with visionary clients. For more information, visit www.JLFArchitects.com.
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