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Havre fire of 1904 gave rise to fine downtown architecture

The Craftsman style continues the "paring down" of the excessive architectural detail of the Victorian era homes to a more streamlined style.

The Craftsman first entered neighborhoods at the beginning of the 20th century and continued to the 1930s. The Arts and Crafts style discussed in my last article started the movement from "excess" to "less is better," and the Craftsman took this idea even further, keeping many of the same elements like tapered columns, cottage-style windows and usually, but not always, a front gable accompanied by a large front porch. Beams protruding from the eaves of the roof are a common element, along with triangular-shaped brackets. Woodwork throughout the interior had simple, clean lines, and built-in cabinetry was popular.

A stroll or drive starting at Fifth Street and keeping between First and Seventh avenues going south shows that the Craftsman influence was extremely popular in Havre, as in many communities across the country. The Craftsman is also one of those styles that has never lost its appeal to many people and is currently experiencing a strong renaissance. One of Havre's best examples of an unaltered Craftsman home is the Williams home at 900 Fourth Ave. This beautiful home was once a 10-bed hospital equipped with the most modern equipment of its day.

One hundred years ago, in January 1904, a huge fire destroyed much of downtown Havre. The only structure left standing was a concrete safe from one of the banks. The buildings that lined the streets of downtown Havre at that time were made mainly of wood and packed tightly together, like many other towns built during that time. As a consequence, usually when one building caught on fire, so did several others. While some still debate how the fire got started, we can still experience the aftermath by looking at the beautiful architecture built afterward. When the weather gets nicer, take some time to look at the architectural elements of some of the buildings downtown. Find the lion heads that grace the front of one of the buildings, or the pretty corbels that top another, or the bay window, the old advertising signs, and different architectural details that make these buildings one of Havre and Hill County's overlooked treasures. Another way of experiencing the aftermath of the Great Fire of 1904 is to take a tour of Havre Beneath the Streets, which is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year. Havre Beneath the Streets is planning a special event, so be on the lookout for upcoming details.

The Havre-Hill County Historic Preservation Commission meets the third Thursday of every month at 7 p.m. in the Heritage Center, except August, November and December. Please call 265-6233 for more information.


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