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Our View: Congrats to people who preserve Fort Assinniboine


October 15, 2013

Fort Assinniboine has for decades been the hidden jewel if the Hi-Line.

A group of volunteers has been working to restore buildings at the fort, which closed it doors in 1911 after protecting the Hi-Line 32 years.

It is one of the best maintained forts of its era in Montana. Many of the original buildings are still standing, thanks to the dedicated efforts of volunteers and donations from local and state organizations.

The fort attracts people to the area every year. People enjoy seeing the buildings that once housed soldiers, including the famed Buffalo Soldiers.

This is why we’re glad to hear that the Montana Preservation Alliance has given one of its top awards to the Fort Assinniboine Preservation Association.

It’s good news because a handful of people have done a lot of unappreciated work over the years, and they richly deserve the praise they are getting from the state organization.

This courageous group of volunteers has worked many long hours to get the money and manpower needed to keep things afloat at the fort. Things are maintained, and some buildings have been renovated.

Treasurer Lynda Taplin pointed out, however, that some of the work that is needed now will be more costly.

That brings up another advantage of winning such a prestigious award. People who dole out money for projects such as this pay attention to awards such as this.

It won’t be easy to get the money needed to bring the fort up to the shape we wish it were in. Foundation grant money is drying up, and the U.S. government may not have money to pay its debt, much less money to preserve a national landmark.

But when Taplin writes grant requests, she will be able to say that state officials are paying attention to what we are doing in Havre.

That will be great for Havre and its tourism efforts. We can’t help but think that with a little bit more publicity, more people will come to see it.

Beyond that, it is important — no, essential — that our history be preserved. The fort was the first major European-American institution on what is today the Hi-Line. Its creation preceded the formation of the city of Havre. It was closed before Hill County was formed.

In order to know what our future holds, we have to know who we are. To know who we are, we need to know our past.

The fort was one of the first steps in the creation of this great place we call the Hi-Line. We need to preserve it.


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