Gov. Greg Gianforte recently honored the Fort Harrison Veterans Affairs staff for preserving National Register properties while providing housing for homeless veterans.
Also being recognized this year for preservation of Montana’s historic resources are properties listed in 2019 and 2020 to the National Register of Historic Places; the Northwest Montana Lookout Association; the Monarch Depot Restoration Project and the Monarch-Neihart Historical Group; the 2019 Legislature for the Montana Museums Act of 2020; and the outgoing members of the Montana State Preservation Review Board.
Gianforte’s 2021 Preservation Award recognizes the efforts of Fort Harrison staff to make habitable 11 unoccupied 1890s residential buildings. Although these grand, multi-unit houses were homes to military and VA staff for a century, they were generally abandoned due to their costly maintenance that would have taken dollars away from the agency’s primary health-care mandate.
Fortunately, the VA’s commitment to end homelessness among veterans gave these viable buildings value far beyond their historic and architectural merit. The agency’s Enhanced-Use Lease Program meant a qualified private developer could preserve the historic buildings using private capital and Federal Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credits, which are not applicable to a federal agency.
In 2017, the VA staff worked with developer Beneficial Communities to lease the 11 Fort Harrison buildings. The Freedom’s Path project now provides 26 residential units for veterans and their families.
The $11 million project included $9.6 million in historic building rehabilitation.
Gianforte said the VA staff set the stage for this project. “Their work maintained the dignity of these great buildings and repurposed them to serve a greater need,” he noted.
Now, the parklike campus is home to 96 veterans and their families, who live in a stable, positive, and therapeutic environment in the company of veteran peers.
In addition to the awards, National Register certificates signed by both State Historic Preservation Officer Pete Brown and Gov. Gianforte will be sent to the owners of 29 properties listed in the National Register of Historic Places during the past two years. These listings represent 19 counties.
The three retiring Historic Preservation Review Board members, Debra Hronek and Tim Urbaniak of Red Lodge, and C. Milo McLeod of Missoula, also were recognized for their efforts throughout the years.
The Montana State Historic Preservation Office is a program of the Montana Historical Society. The office honored people and projects that contributed to the preservation of Montana’s historic resources with a virtual pre-recorded awards ceremony this year.
“Although a live ceremony was out of the question this year, it remains important to recognize our outstanding heritage places and the dedicated people who help preserve them,” Brown said.
A link to the prerecorded ceremony can be found here. https://bit.ly/3tRy5oo
For additional information contact Pete Brown, firstname.lastname@example.org (444-7718) or John Boughton, email@example.com (444-3647).