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UER Mobile > US: Great Plains > Miscellaneous Montana: A Roadside Compilation (Viewed 946 times)

post by Aran   |  | 
Miscellaneous Montana: A Roadside Compilation
< on 8/10/2022 4:09 AM >

As you all have no doubt found, not every abandonment has some grand history, dark past, or epic story. Sometimes places fall into disuse for simple reasons, and sometimes shoddy record keeping makes it near impossible to dig up any historical information. Here’s a collection of places from rural Montana that fit the bill. They’re all pretty small and there’s not much online about them (if anything), so this thread will serve more as a sampler of multiple sites instead of one big write-up like I often do.

To start things off we have the Stockman Bar, a small tavern in a particularly rural section of southeast Montana. It stands at a crossroads that it shares with a tiny post office and not much else. This one was a roadside find on the way back from Minnesota, close to dusk as a snow began to gently fall. The bar itself was a shell that contained nothing but a scrapped truck and it only took a few minutes to see everything there was to see.

A close up of the faded sign on the exterior of the bar.

An exterior shot of the bar.

The interior of the bar. It looks like it was used to store a truck that has since been scrapped for parts.

Next up, a grain elevator I stumbled across while on my way to a ghost town (which will feature in it's own write up at a later date). This particular grain elevator was pretty bare bones as most most wooden grain elevators are, but there were still a few interesting photos to be had.

The grain elevator sits in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, right where the plains begin to turn to mountains again.

Unfortunately, pro-Trump signs were ubiquitous outside the cities. Something about a “freedom” sign behind a barbed wire fence really spoke to my sense of irony.

This house is another roadside find. Clearly the previous owner was deeply patriotic, given the American flag paint job on one wall and the circle of thirteen stars (Thirteen Colonies) on the other. But what’s less clear is the meaning of the number 89. Google suggests that it may be a reference to 1989, the year the Berlin Wall fell. It may also be a religious reference- Psalm 89 in the Bible lists some of the various names of God, and spiritually the number 89 is sometimes associated with strength in combat, independence, and service to others. Ultimately though, these are just guesses- the only person who truly knows what this paint job means moved out a long, long time ago.

The outside of the house. The paint job is very distinctive.

This mural on an interior wall clearly depicts the house, and also was clearly added after abandonment, given that the bottom left corner dates it to June 2016 and the level of decay indicates a significantly longer period of abandonment. Like the exterior paint job, the number 89 is prominently displayed- this time associated with a large bird of some kind and the moon. .

These next three are from a different road trip. I drove about five hours north to try and hunt down an abandoned USAF radar installation. I found the installation, but it was tightly sealed. So while that wasn’t a viable exploration, I did end up stumbling on these next three spots in the closest town. This first one is a partially burnt, multi-building motel. It’s only a few blocks off from the High Line, which is one of the major cross-country trainhopping routes. The trash and graffiti scattered around the motel suggests that it has been frequently used as a squat for passing hobos.

The unlit sign hanging off the corner of one of the three buildings that made up the motel.

One of the three motel buildings. This one was heavily burnt and half demolished by a fire in the summer of 2021.

A graffiti note written on the wall in one of the motel rooms from one hobo to another. There were a few similar notes scattered throughout the motel.

The most intact section of the motel. The first floor was heavily trashed, but the staircase to the second floor was locked tight and may contain an active squat.

Here’s a small mom and pop drive in grill. There wasn’t really anything to see inside aside from an old grill- it was pretty much stripped bare long ago.

Exterior of the drive in. Honestly the outside was more interesting than the inside by far, which really isn’t saying much.

Just outside of town, I stumbled across a derelict oilfield. The tanks all sat empty, the derricks rusty, and the pump houses stripped bare. This site was a bit unusual because unlike most abandoned places, everything wasn’t concentrated to one area. Various oilfield structures lay scattered across a square mile or two of empty flatlands, each one anywhere from a few to several hundred yards away from the next structure. The actual oilfield is much larger and remains in active production, but this section at least has been abandoned for the foreseeable future.

A small abandoned oil derrick and pump house.

A derelict series of tanks that would have once held crude oil as it was extracted by the derricks.

A close up of a tall, narrow tank a few dozen yards from the tanks in the previous picture. This collection of tanks, called a battery, was once owned and operated by Texaco.

Another set of abandoned oil derricks next to a garage or pump house of some kind.

Have some more grain elevators. There were so many abandoned grain elevators along the highways. After a certain point I just kinda stopped pulling over for them because I had more urgent explorations to attend to, and also because there’s only so much pigeon shit I’m willing to deal with for minimal payoff. The towering ruin of a grain elevator on the open prairie does evoke a certain kind of desolation though, I suppose.

Two abandoned grain elevators side by side.

Interior of one of the above mills where the grain was drawn from different silos within the elevator. There were also literal mounds of pigeon shit.

Another abandoned grain elevator, this one with a flock of spooked pigeons soaring away above it. After a while these elevators do all start to look the same, I will admit.

Jars of grain samples from various lots, stored inside a side room within the above grain elevator.

To finish things off, I’ll end with some pictures of a theater I stumbled across while stopping for gas on the way back to Wisconsin at the end of the season. This particular theater opened sometime in the early twentieth century. It initially showed vaudeville shows and silent films before playing its first “talkie” in 1930, a film called Lord Byron of Broadway. As this theater is in a very small town, there isn’t much information online about it- however, it’s known that by 1984 it was closed and had caught the eye of the local historical society. A fire damaged the theater in 1997 and delayed restoration efforts until 2011, when a second and larger fire absolutely gutted the structure and put a halt to all future restoration plans. I actually went to the bar across the street and tried to casually ply the bartender for information regarding it, but nobody seemed to care enough to know anything about it.

The sign on the outside of the theater, still charred from the fire that destroyed it.

The stage of the theater. The roof and much of the structure beyond the bare skeleton was destroyed by the fire, and a further decade of exposure to the elements has done it no favors.

I do have more from Montana than this, but those photo sets will be the subject of future write ups of their own. Most of those locations are connected to each other by some common thread or theme, and unfortunately I won’t be able to gather all the puzzle pieces (so to speak) until I return to Montana this winter- so it’ll be a while yet before any of those write ups get written. But in the meantime, here’s to stumbling upon more random finds in the future.

[last edit 8/11/2022 1:29 AM by Aran - edited 1 times]

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post by EsseXploreR   |  | 
Re: Miscellaneous Montana: A Roadside Compilation
<Reply # 1 on 8/10/2022 2:00 PM >

Another very cool set. That mural is something special. I'm also wondering why the stage of the theater had that false wall built across it. I usually only see that it theaters that have been converted into retail. Thanks for sharing!

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post by Aran   |  | 
Re: Miscellaneous Montana: A Roadside Compilation
<Reply # 2 on 8/11/2022 1:23 AM >

Posted by EsseXploreR
Another very cool set. That mural is something special. I'm also wondering why the stage of the theater had that false wall built across it. I usually only see that it theaters that have been converted into retail. Thanks for sharing!

I suspect that the theater was originally an actual stage theater that was later converted into a cinema, and that's when the wall was built to provide a backdrop for a projector screen. After all, if it started with vaudeville acts then it needed a stage for the performers- but I couldn't find any records of actual plays or live shows being performed here after the 1930s. The projector box in the photo below also looks like it was added at a later date, probably sometime around when the wall was built.

[last edit 8/11/2022 1:23 AM by Aran - edited 1 times]

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post by Punchy   |  | 
Re: Miscellaneous Montana: A Roadside Compilation
<Reply # 3 on 8/13/2022 9:14 PM >

The "small mom and pop drive in grill" was originally built as a Tastee-Freez, most likely in the 1950s. That curved front roof is a dead giveaway.

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post by Kabes   |  | 
Re: Miscellaneous Montana: A Roadside Compilation
<Reply # 4 on 11/1/2022 4:08 PM >

That is an awesome mural. Wonder if it was someone who was related to that shack or was someone who just stumbled across it one day. Amazing shots!

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post by emhbroadway   |  | 
Re: Miscellaneous Montana: A Roadside Compilation
<Reply # 5 on 11/12/2022 9:40 PM >

1. Yes, most theaters in Montana began as stage theaters and some were converted into cinemas when movies started to become more popular than live entertainment. I know this theater and this town. Lots to see if you know where to look.

2. Montana became a state in 1889, hence the 89 on the building.

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post by YoelT   |  | 
Re: Miscellaneous Montana: A Roadside Compilation
<Reply # 6 on 12/31/2022 2:46 AM >

Fantastic series. Really like the theaters and hotel shots

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post by WestOhooligan   |  | 
Re: Miscellaneous Montana: A Roadside Compilation
<Reply # 7 on 1/10/2023 8:15 PM >

Growing up in Kansas and Nebraska, so many of those elevators roadside, or even just sitting in the wild, never even thought to check them out. Love the pics and great set. Keep it up!

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