Libby’ Heritage Museum Nominated for National Historic Register

Unique 12-sided building was built in the 1970s

By Justin Franz
The Heritage Museum in Libby. Courtesy Photo.

The building that houses Libby’s Heritage Museum — a unique 12-sided log building constructed in the 1970s — has been nominated for inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places.

The 13,500-square-foot structure was built in 1975 by hundreds of local volunteers. The museum opened in 1978.

“Kudos to the Heritage Museum volunteers, and especially Sherry Turner, who took it upon themselves to list their building,” said John Boughton, the national register coordinator at Montana’s State Historic Preservation Office. “Although the building is less than 50 years old — usually one of the requirements for listing in the National Register — the backstory of the community effort to construct the building, its importance to the community, along with its unmistakable architecture allows this building to move forward for listing among the significant historic buildings in Libby.”

In 1971, local artist Roy D. Porter passed away and left a large collection of artifacts to the community. Looking for a place to store the collection, and turn it into a museum, the community designed and built the 12-sided “dodecagon” structure. The building is made out of hand-peeled and notched western larch and lodgepole pines. Between 800 and 900 logs were used in the construction. The historic register application, which was submitted in January, notes that most log structures are square, so a 12-sided one would be a unique addition to the register.

If approved by the National Park Service, the Heritage Museum building would be the first addition to the register from Libby since 2012, when Hotel Libby was added. Eve Byron, public information officer for the Montana Historical Society, said officials expect to know within a few months if their application has been successful.

The building also has a 30-foot diameter cupola on the roof that extends to the ground floor of the museum. The building has two floors of exhibit space and a third floor for storage. Two half-log staircases provide access to the upper floors. Inclusion on the national register recognizes a property’s historic value and can enhance community awareness. Turner, the volunteer who helped spearhead the nomination, said she learned a lot from the effort.

“As I searched the Museum archives for documents needed for the register application, I was awestruck to discover this amazing story of community perseverance and volunteerism in Libby that resulted in the building of the Museum,” Turner said. “Since retiring and beginning working as a volunteer, it makes me feel good to accomplish goals and give back to the community.”

For more information, visit LibbyHeritageMuseum.org.

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