Lewistown's First High School - Lewistown, MT
Posted by: Groundspeak Premium Member T0SHEA
N 47° 03.896 W 109° 25.760
12T E 619264 N 5213576
Quick Description: This pre twentieth century photography studio still bears its old painted advertising sign on one side and, though quite faded, is still mostly legible.
Location: Montana, United States
Date Posted: 5/12/2019 2:41:54 PM
Waymark Code: WM10J1C
Published By: Groundspeak Premium Member lumbricus
Views: 1

Long Description:
The County High School Law, passed by the Montana State Legislature in March 1899, required that a school be built to accommodate all high school students in Fergus County. The town of Lewistown, the county seat, however, had no high school yet, so a temporary location was needed for one school year, until a school could be constructed. Just completed, the Culver Studio building fit the bill, so the Fergus County high school classes of 1899-1900 were taught on the upper floor of the building. The original house still stood beside the building, so the Culvers were able to live in it until the school was completed and the students were able to vacate the studio building.

William H. Culver, builder of the studio, was a photographer who chronicled much of the early days of Central Montana, many photographs from which survive. William H. Culver was the first photographer to set up a business in Lewistown in 1886. He moved to Lewistown from Maiden, Montana where he had been a photographer from 1883-1886. Culver's original home stood to the northwest of the present two storey brick building, standing where the front garden is today. The original studio, a small one storey wood framed building, stood partially on the location of the present studio building.

Apparently, in 1980, when the studio was listed on the National Register, many of his photographs remained in the building. Given that the last studio in the building closed in 1995 it is unlikely that these photographs remain in the building. Many of Culver's photos, now public domain, can be seen at MT Memory.


Photographer William H. Culver arrived in Lewistown in 1886 after stints in Maiden and Butte. He was particularly known for his early photographs of central Montana, including images of the renowned 1884 Judith Roundup. Shortly after he arrived in Lewistown, Culver established a studio on this site. In 1899, he and his wife May—also a photographer—decided to replace that small building with this two-story gallery, studio, and residence. Fergus County’s first free public high school held classes on the second floor of the new building in 1899, while the county school was under construction. Because there was no rail service to Lewistown until after 1903, Culver had his business block constructed from local sandstone and low-fire brick, likely manufactured by local brick maker Frank Moshner. On its completion the building was “one of the largest and most substantial” in Lewistown. The decorative, corbelled cornice and brick arches surrounding the windows reflected Culver’s civic pride and add elegance to the front façade. Suggesting the building’s specialized purpose is the bank of windows, or sidelight, that let east light into the single-story, attached studio. A ghost sign on the wall facing Fifth Avenue also offers a visual reminder of the building’s past. Clearly well suited to its purpose, the building housed photography studios continuously for almost one hundred years. In addition to William and May Culver, resident photographers included Katherine Coulter, Culver’s daughter and son-in-law, Sybil and Lute Musson, and George Brenner, whose studio closed in 1995.
From the NRHP plaque at the building
Culver Studio
The Culver Studio, a typical late I9th Century, two-story, brick commericaI/residential structure built in downtown Lewistown, Montana, is significant in its association with William Culver. Culver was a noted photographer who, in addition to his commercial portraiture, captured many scenes and events of the early day central portion of the state. He photographed the Judith Roundup in 1884 and the opening of the English Sapphire mine (a difficult project in the pre-flash or floodlight era).

Before William Culver settled down to his professional career as a photographer, he carroused the west, hunting, trapping and trading with the Indians. Culver established his first studio in Maiden, Montana in 1883, but moved to Lewistown three years later. He built his brick studio and residence on Fifth Avenue in Lewistown in 1899. During the winter of 1899-1900, the upper story served as a classroom for Lewistown's first high school and the Culver family moved in in the spring. Culver also established a studio in Old Utica, then a leading cowtown. He spent a few days each month in the Utica area, travelling by buggy with a signboard on the back.

William Culver's interests ranged far beyond the camera and darkroom. He played the cornet and organized and directed the first Lewistown band. When Lewistown was organized as a city, he was elected to the city council and aided in the early planning and development of the city. He helped build the first opera house in Lewistown and managed it for many years. Culver lived in Lewistown for a total of 44 years.

The Culver Studio remains a repository for several collections of historic photographs which form a pictorial record of the growth and development of central Montana. Culver himself photographed and catalogued 138 early pioneer residences during his career.
From the NRHP Nomination Form

Photo goes Here

212 5th Avenue North
Lewistown, MT USA

Web Site: [Web Link]

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