By Jerome Tharaud/Havre Daily Newsfirstname.lastname@example.org
One of Havre's most popular tourist sites will soon have an addition: a replica of the law office of longtime Havre lawyer Max P. Kuhr.
It will be the first addition to Havre Beneath the Streets since it completed a mortuary exhibit three years ago, said Havre Beneath the Streets chair Frank DeRosa. The underground site features about 19 displays of historic Havre businesses in the space many businesses occupied after a major fire leveled much of downtown Havre in 1904.
The exhibit was modeled after a photograph of Kuhr's law office on the second floor of the Citizens Bank building at the corner of Second Street and Third Avenue, where Wells Fargo bank is now located, said Mary VanBuskirk, a lawyer at Bosch Kuhr Dugdale Martin & Kaze who has spearheaded the effort to collect some of Kuhr's furniture, papers and supplies.
"We just tried to duplicate what's in the picture," she said.
VanBuskirk said DeRosa approached her about three years ago with the idea of having a law office display at Havre Beneath the Streets. She took the idea to the firm and to the Kuhr family, both of which agreed to help collect Kuhr's furniture and other belongings for the display.
This summer Havre Beneath the Streets hired Martin Holt, a member of Montana Actors' Theatre, to build the display based on the photograph.
Holt began work in August and worked into September.
"I basically spent the last two months building it," Holt said. He said the biggest challenge was planning the project with just a picture and no dimensions to go on.
Kuhr's original desk was moved into the room and his real papers and pipes placed on it. His bookcase, chairs and wastebasket were also brought in, as well as a photograph of Max Kuhr that John Kuhr, Max's son, kept on the wall in his law office. The Hauges, another prominent Havre law family whose patriarch, Oscar, often argued cases against Kuhr, agreed to give another bookshelf.
"I mean these were big, powerful families," VanBuskirk said. "It's just a very rich part of Havre and north-central Montana history we're celebrating. And although it is the Max Kuhr law office, it celebrates many generations of attorneys that have practiced here."
VanBuskirk said Kuhr had a wonderful relationship with immigrants who came to Havre and great affection for the area.
The office also includes some vintage law books from the turn of the century donated by state Supreme Court Justice John Warner.
Bosch Kuhr Dugdale Martin & Kaze is the descendent of Kuhr's original firm, Kuhr and Kuhr. Max Kuhr's son John is a partner in the firm. He provided some of his father's papers, speeches and his diploma.
"It's a wonderful idea," Carolyn Rhodes, one of Max Kuhr's daughters, said of the new exhibit. "He was the best guy that ever lived and he was a wonderful lawyer."
Rhodes, who lives in Casper, Wyo., said her father served on the school board and was a big supporter of the schools in Havre, as well as an avid University of Michigan football fan.
"He was a strong supporter of all the good things in Havre," she said.
Mary Pizzini, one of Max Kuhr's granddaughters, said she, like many in the family, never met her grandfather, and that the exhibit is a chance to learn more about him.
"They're quite excited about it and feel like it's really a neat opportunity for us to learn more about somebody we didn't even know," she said. "We thought it was an honor."
Kuhr graduated from Chinook High School in 1909, and went on to law school at the University of Michigan. In 1917 he graduated and then served in the Army in World War I. He returned to Havre and set up the Kuhr and Kuhr law firm with his brother William and practiced until he was killed in a car accident in December 1955. He left a wife and five grown children. His son John joined the law firm soon after.
Kuhr also served as a member of the advisory board of Northern Montana College, and was director of several area banks and businesses, including the Kuhr Land and Livestock Co. and the Milk River Coal Co. He also served as Hill County attorney at one point, said Burton Bosch, a lawyer who joined the firm months after Kuhr's death.
"He was well-known and well-respected," Bosch said. "He was one of the outstanding lawyers of north-central Montana, not only in Havre but all along the Hi-Line."
He said Kuhr had a large clientele in Blaine, Chouteau and Liberty counties.
DeRosa said he is still waiting for a second antique bookshelf for the rest of the law books, and that he still plans to put in Venetian blinds and new carpet to complete the exhibit. He said he would also eventually like to put in a mannequin like some of the other exhibits at Havre Beneath the Streets.
The next exhibit DeRosa has planned is a newspaper office of the now-defunct Havre Independent, which was in operation in the 1930s, he said. DeRosa said he would have to dig out and replace the vaulted sidewalk that runs from the Havre Railroad Museum north to the alley and beyond it to where the current vaulted area begins - about 120 feet of sidewalk.
DeRosa said he has been planning that project for about 10 years and that he is trying to get local contractors to bid on it.
Havre Beneath the Streets will hold a fund-raiser this spring to try to raise money for the project, he said.