Destruction of Historic Buildings
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Posted by Robin Gerber (+34) 19 years ago
Hi, just wanted to update everyone on the Log Cabin thread. (I didn't see this anywhere else, so I hope I'm not repeating information). Plans now call for not only the Log Cabin to be torn down, but also the NZ Shoes building, next door. The word is also out that a few more buildings on that block may also be slated for the 'axe'.

I know folks on other threads have said that sometimes we have to do away with the old to make room for the new, but I have to wonder why we can't have both? Our Haynes Ave. certainly is an example of the recent growth in Miles City, why can't we also maintain our uniqueness through our historic Main Street?

Anyway, I find it a very sad situation indeed.
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Posted by David Schott (+17052) 19 years ago
Amorette Allison wrote a fantastic letter to the editor that appeared in the June 24th "Miles City Star" in defense of these historic buildings. Good job, Amorette! Even if you don't win this battle your efforts at making Miles Citians aware of the value of their historic downtown are worth it. I truly believe Miles City's history is a wonderful asset that the town's business leaders should recognize. Let's hope Miles City figures it out before everything is lost.

- Dave
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Posted by David Schott (+17052) 19 years ago
Judging by the photo on the "Miles City Star" web site that shows a track hoe demolishing the Log Cabin, I guess these buildings are officially doomed.

- Dave
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Posted by Rick Goff (+71) 19 years ago
Nothing left but a pile of rubble needing to be hauled away.
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Posted by Bart Freese (+926) 19 years ago
And the basements.
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Posted by Antonia Klein (+42) 19 years ago
The destruction of the Log Cabin and viewing the remaining pile of rubble was especially sad for me. My parents met at the old Log Cabin Cafe. Mom waited tables and Dad was a regular customer. Next thing I know they will head down Main and destroy what was once the old livery stable on the corner. Later on that building was home to my father's business for over 35 years. I don't know about you but I am inclined to be a tad bit more lively if this situation arises again. If a woman can perch in a redwood to save it we can certainly think of a creative way to save our old buildings. Perhaps those who claim to think modernization is the wave of the future need to visit Longmont, CO or Sheridan, WY. Those particular cities have preserved their history. The modernization movement is preservation, not destruction. THAT is the wave of the future.
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Posted by Amorette Allison (+11757) 19 years ago
"The modernization movement is preservation, not destruction. THAT is the wave of the future."

THAT is the truth. Sadly, Bob Lucas and other persons at Stockman Bank are still living with the 1960's mindset that "new" equals "better." Not better built, not more attractive, not more functional, mind you. Just "new."

They also are missing the boat that one of the things we can market to attract tourists and new residents to our town is its character. If we look like every other small town, with its strip malls and Wal-mart, why should anyone care to stop and visit or live here?

I CANNOT get this across to the "Sixties" people who actually thing we should tear down the Masonic temple because the window frames need painting and who think that the US Bank building is "nice" because it has been painted recently. Bleah.

I do hope that the next time someone tries to tear down a National Historic Register building that is part of our shared cultural history, more people will rise up and stop them.

I have old photos of Main st. and a whole lot more of it would still be there if banks thought of something besides how to spend their money on concrete blocks and buildings with no character.

--Amorette
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Posted by Bert Pezzarossi (+12) 19 years ago
I guess that I fail to see the "historic" value of the buildings in question. I personally feel no loss of history or no loss of asthetics. They were just ugly old buildings, to me.

I guess that I fail to see how some old building on Main Street is going to attract one more tourist, or one more resident. This town desperatly needs economic development to grow and without that economic growth all Miles City is going to have is old buildings, but the problem is that there will be no people around to see them. Jobs like the ones at Stockman Bank are the things that will attract new residents to this city, without those types of jobs then this town will die.

If letting Stockman Bank tear down those buildings and build a new addition means that they will continue to have their headquarters in Miles City then I think the ends justifies the means.

In a perfect world I think that Miles City should worry more about saving their old buildings, but as it stands now Miles City needs the economic development more than it needs to save buildings in my opinion.
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Posted by Robin Gerber (+34) 19 years ago
I guess I'm puzzled as to why the Bank couldn't renovate the buildings and put their offices there, thereby getting the best of both worlds.

As for being ugly old buildings, well, that was what was said about the Ursuline Convent when the move was on to tear that down several years ago. Thanks to the Convent Keepers, that building was saved and is now considered a beautiful addition to the town. I guess beauty is in the eye of the beholder. We'll talk about ugly buildings again after the Stockman Bank puts up its sparkly new, and I'm sure, ever so charming, addition.

As for tourism, when you travel, do you ever stop at historic sites or buildings, or do you stick to strip malls and business districts to wile away your vacation hours?

Growing up here, I find Miles City quirky and eccentric and old fashioned and, dare I say it, beautiful! That's why I came back after college. Whatever else it is, it's my home, and I can't stress this enough...MY HOME IS NOT DISPOSABLE.
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Posted by MilesCity.com Webmaster (+10001) 19 years ago
I'm all for more commercial and business development in Miles City, however my question is... given a finite number of truly historic buildings left in the town, why couldn't Stockman Bank have built backwards or upwards instead of sideways? Or even at another site? It is not unheard of for businesses, even very large corporations, to move across or down the street, if necissary.

And even if they felt the need to go sideways, as Robin pointed out, why not utilize the existing buildings, if historic? Many, many towns would not have put up with anything less.

In any case, since it is now said and done, I hope the new construction at least has a historic look to it which compliments the downtown area.

[This message has been edited by Larry Antram (edited 7/27/2002).]
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Posted by Amorette Allison (+11757) 19 years ago
I have a standard response to people who think "ugly Old buildings" add nothing to a community and I'll guess I'll post it here.

1) As for not bringing in a single tourist, cultural or heritage tourism is THE LARGEST GROWTH industry in tourism today. Heritage tourists will spend more money and time visiting than any other type of tourist. Heritage tourists look for HISTORY in an area. They will not visit a town with a strip mall or fast food joints. They go to places with old buildings that preserve the sense of place and history that these tourists find interesting.
Currently, tourists spend about $20,000,000 A YEAR in Custer County. If we can get those tourists to stay an extra night, we can probably bring in several MILLION dollars more. Those tourists won't stay an extra night to go shopping at a store just like the one in their home town but they might stay if they could visit a building where Calamity Jane once worked or Morgan Earp stayed.

2) Quality of Life is one of the chief reasons people list for chosing to live in a community. If Miles City is just like every other little town, with nothing unique, attractive or interesting to offer, why would someone decide to live here. Our quality of life INCLUDES our western heritage.

3) Our history is the history of the UNITED STATES. This is where the Old West LIVED! We can offer something very, very few places can--the actual place where "it" happened. We could tear down Mount Vernon, pave over Gettysburg, and destroy Miles City, then we could say to future generations, we used to have the actual history but we destroyed in for short term gain. Bet that will bring in the tourists!

4) People frequently site Livingston, Billings, Bozeman, Deadwood, Sheridan, Red Lodge, etc as areas of great economic growth. Guess what? ALL of those places have rules in place to preserve our common heritage. Maybe they are on to something? Tourists with MONEY chose to visit those places, not because they can offer a Motel 6 built last year but because they can offer buildings on the National Historic Register that exhibit our past.

5) Aesthetics are hard to argue. I know people who think "new" means "pretty." Personally, I find concrete block warehouses to be hideous and Renaissance Revival or Queen Anne Gothic, to have character and depth that blank modern architecture doesn't have but if you like blank modern architecture, I probably can't explain to you how balance, character, design, contrast and all that complicated stuff work for me. However, there are lots of people who do love buildings for their beauty. Stand back and LOOK at the top of the Ben Franklin building, with its ornate terra cotta work and compare it to the "Art Moderne" fabulous 1952 remodelling of the old Penny's building. If you like the Penny's building better, fine but I would appreciate it if you allowed me to enjoy the Ben Franklin building more.

6) Scarcity is one quality that makes something valuble. Only a small fraction of structures in the United States predate 1945. Those buildings often contain fine woodwork that CANNOT be duplicated, intricate brick and tile work that is exhorbitantly costly to replicate and other details that can no longer be found. In many communities, salvage yards full of old architectural details are enormously profitable. We have some of that "old stuff" right here, in place. Which makes it valuable.

7) There are options. There are always options. Stockman Bank elected not to explore these options because they like new things. That is their choice but I don't have to agree with it. Old buildings CAN be restored. If a contractor tells you it can't be, hire another contractor. Most of the time--not always but often--it costs LESS to restore than to destroy and replace.

8) Believe it or not, Miles City was ahead of the game when it comes to economic development compared to many small towns. Check out the Main Sts. in Glendive or Sidney or Glasgow. We have much more going for us than many places. Because of our extremes in climate and lousy transportation infrastructure, we will never grow the way some places have BUT we are not about to fold up and die. We need to grow but we can grow without sacrificing our history. Our NATIONAL HISTORY.

9) The terrorists of Sept. 11 destroyed BUILDINGS that were SYMBOLIC of AMERICA. They knew that bringing down the WTC--which, personally, I think weren't very attractive--wouldn't stop the American economy but they knew the SYMBOL would attract attention. Buildings are more than just walls and roofs. They are statements of their time, they are the sense of place, they are what we are. Destroy them and we destroy a part of our heritage that cannot ever be replaced.

10) Lots of folks think short term. Destroy now to save a few bucks or preserve so that, in the future, we will have something to offer the world. I think long term. I think about the tourists who come in to my office regularly telling me how WONDERFUL Miles City is and why don't we advertise our historic downtown and residential districts better. I think, twenty years from now, the "new " Stockman Bank will be a twenty year old modern building and unless we take action, tourists won't be coming into my office because no one will bother to visit a town with nothing interesting to offer.

I can sight statistics all day on how historic preservation is economically sound but if you don't like "old stuff," then you probably don't care. And after we destroy all the old buildings on Main, we can level the Range Riders and toss out all that junk out there. Might as well make a clean sweep and see how many folks we can attract to our boring, modern town like any other boring modern town.



--Amorette Allison, Historic Preservation Officer



[This message has been edited by Amorette Allison (edited 7/27/2002).]

[This message has been edited by Amorette Allison (edited 7/31/2002).]
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Posted by David Schott (+17052) 19 years ago
One thing I find interesting from Larry's post:

>>In any case, since it is now said and done,
>>I hope the new construction at least has a
>>historic look to it which compliments the
>>downtown area.

Has anyone seen an architectural drawing of Stockman Bank's proposed expansion? Stockman bought the adjacent property, demolished the existing buildings, and has set forth on constructing their new addition and I wonder if any city official or member of the public has had the opportunity to review the proposed plans? Maybe I'm off my rocker but I think in most cities there are zoning laws and development guidelines and restrictions (i.e. an architectural review board) that would give the city some teeth in controlling construction within the city limits. I think Bozeman would be a prime example -- they have the big box retailers under their thumb when they try to construct something out the middle of an empty field. I can only imagine what they do to someone trying to develop property on their historic Main St. It seems like Miles City's government pretty much rolls over and plays dead in these scenarios. I subscribe to the "Miles City Star" and I have seen very little in the way of concrete details on Stockman's plans for this site. Is Stockman witholding information? Is the Miles City Star afraid to pursue details from the bank? Is the newspaper afraid to offend the big local business for fear the business will stop advertising in the paper? Where I live the newspapers are publishing detailed information about proposed development plans far in advance of any construction activity.

Anyhow, I agree with Larry in that I hope Stockman does something that looks good. But, I pretty much expect the expansion to be a dark brown brick with white stucco-ish covered styrofoam cornices similar to the bank's existing 1970-ish building.

- Dave
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Posted by Amorette Allison (+11757) 19 years ago
I've seen the plans and yes, the addition will look just like the existing, sixties modern bank. At least it's not quite as ugly as US Bank (the old First Nat'l) but that isn't saying much.

There are no design restrictions in Miles City. When I bring them up at the zoning commission, I get the "it's my private property and I can do what I want" shortsighted, profit motive argument. The most we can hope for is guidelines with no teeth in them.

And yes, the Star will roll over for Stockman Bank and I say that as a contract employee whose husband works for the newspaper. They are all nice folks there but newspapers are supposed to make a profit and you don't do that by pissing off big customers.

Ironically, the Bank kept threatening to move to Billings if I stood in their way. Which has (TA-DA) a strict historic preservation ordinance for the downtown even though it is not a National Register area.

And Bozeman--which is booming economically--has even stricter guidelines. Ditto Missoula, Helena, Livingston, Red Lodge etc. . .

Somehow, no one here seems to get the point. Oh, well. When the tourists STOP coming, I can just imagine the hysterics. What went wrong? How can we build some nice fake history like Williamsburg so we can bring them back?

--Amorette

[This message has been edited by Amorette Allison (edited 7/29/2002).]
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Posted by Bert Pezzarossi (+12) 19 years ago
From your message:

"I can sight statistics all day on how historic preservation is economically sound but if you don't like "old stuff," then you probably don't care. And after we destroy all the old buildings on Main, we can level the Range Riders and toss out all that junk out there. Might as well make a clean sweep and see how many folks we can attract to our boring, modern town like any other boring modern town."


Uhh, being a bit melodramatic here aren't we?

I never said that we need to raze the whole town. I just said that I did not see anything that historic about the Log Cabin or NZ Shoes buildings. That is all that I was commenting on. You make good points, some of which I agree with and some that I do not.

I agree that we need to preserve historic buildings but sometimes we have to weigh jobs vs. preservation. I just think that the amount of jobs that were saved by insuring that the Stockman central office stayed in Miles City FAR outweighed the tourists that would have stopped in Miles City to see those two buildings, nothing more nothing less. And yes that is based on my personal opinion that there was nothing all that "historic" about those buildings.

As far as preservation goes I personally would like to see more of the downtown buildings renovate their old, ugly, 60's and 70's facades and restore them to their truly historic looks of the early days of Miles City. I think I recall that there is money out there to do that and I personally wish that more of the building owners would take advantage of those monies and restore their buildings.

I am not a heartless person that feels that we should tear down all historic buildings, but I am a realistic person that feels that sometimes bad things have to happen to insure the viability of Miles City.
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Posted by Bert Pezzarossi (+12) 19 years ago
DOH!

[This message has been edited by Bert Pezzarossi (edited 7/29/2002).]
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Posted by David Schott (+17052) 19 years ago
>>the Bank kept threatening to move to Billings if I stood in their way<<

Sigh.

It seems to me that there is virtually NOTHING you or anyone else in Miles City could have legally done to stand in their way anyhow.

No doubt, Stockman Bank is very important to the community and I'm sure most everyone is very glad to have them there. I know I am.

Also no doubt (in my mind, at least), the historical downtown is very important to Miles City as well. It is what makes Miles City unique.

What a shame that the two have had some trouble co-existing.

It sounds to me that Stockman Bank has taken a purely business standpoint on this matter which is no surprise and I can't blame them. But, my gut feeling is that if they ever thought it would be financially prudent for them to move their headquarters out of Miles City they'd probably do so in a heartbeat. Because if they're willing to threaten moving over this issue today, I don't guess any amount of hometown loyalty is going to get in their way tomorrow.

Now, having spouted off my opinion, I can only imagine the warm reception I'll receive from my friends at Stockman Bank the next time I'm in town.
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Posted by Bart Freese (+926) 19 years ago
Dave, I certainly join in agreeing with being glad the bank is headquartered here and I enjoy seeing other Stockmans all around the state.

I sit the fence on this one. Trying to fit something into an old structure is a ton of work. I think maybe a customer center could have been put in the old bar portion -- make banking a lot more fun. The tellers would have to learn to mix drinks, but making change would be a cinch. And, since it's for the customers, the drinks would be free anyway; now, there is customer service!! Why, all the other banks would go belly-up as Stockman's customers could go belly -up .... to-the-bar. Only 21 year-old horses could be rode in though, but any age cowboy or cowgirl could open an account and enjoy a Roy Rogers or Shirley Temple.



[This message has been edited by Bart Freese (edited 7/31/2002).]
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Posted by Amorette Allison (+11757) 19 years ago
I suppose the old Log Cabin wasn't THAT historic. It was the oldest extant wooden building on Main Street, surviving the great fire of 1885 that leveled much of Main. I suppose because it was moved in 1902, it's not as historic as it would have been had it stayed in its original location. After all, what is a century in one place?

For fans of Sam Gordon's "Recollections of Old Milestown," what was the Log Cabin was Sam Pepper's resort, where the remittance boys hung out. It was the bar where Sydney Paget drank before he became a member of the house of lords. Except for a brief period during Prohibition, when it was a "second hand store," the Log Cabin was always a saloon, a resort, a bar. Before it became a hole in the ground.

Of course, it's gone now. There isn't a surviving wooden commercial building in the Main St. historic district. There were two when the district was formed but both have since been torn down.

The Strong Block i.e. NZ Shoes building wasn't THAT historic. It was only the first commercial building designed by Byrnjulf Rivenes. Other Rivenes buildings, like the ones in Glendive that are being lovingly restored by owners who respect them and see themselves as caretakers of their historic properties, exist. None of them are the FIRST Rivenes building. That is gone now.

If you could have gone upstairs, past the tile work in the entry way with the word "Strong" written in it, you could have admired the beautiful oak Craftsman balastrades and the fascinating angled doors that once lead to the law offices of Sydney Sanner and George Milburn, who was a state Supreme Court Justice.

Those are gone, of course, The tile work is in the garbage heap. The balustrades and doors, like the hundred plus year old beams in the Log Cabin building, were salvaged and are probably adding to the Coffee coffers as they are sold somewhere.

Someone is buying those beautiful bits of irreplaceable wood because they are beautiful, and historic, and can never be duplicated. Someone else is buying them because Miles City threw them away.

Yeah, the oldest wooden building on Main and the first of Brynjulf Rivenes' buildings aren't very important.

The question is, what is important? Who makes that decision? When is a building "important" enough to preserve and when it is just an ugly old building to be torn down? I know folks at Stockman bank who think the Masonic temple is an ugly old building that should be torn down. Are they right? If they were right about the Log Cabin and the Strong Block, maybe they are right about all the other landmarks on Main.

So, what is the standard? Who gets to decide? What is historic ENOUGH. Important ENOUGH? I know I'm not up to that judgement but then, I'm not rich.

Oh, and as for Stockman leaving. . .If they wanted to be in Billings--where there are much stricter codes preserving old buildings, where the cost of living is higher, where construction and land costs are higher, they'd be there.

They wanted to stay here. Pity they didn't want to preserve here.

--Amorette
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Posted by Bob Thomas (+4) 19 years ago
It is very easy to sit back and complain and say we need to save old building, sounds great, huh, truth is those old building were ready to fall down on there own. They were made of soft type brick that was thin and a major home to mice.
Stockman will put in a new well maintained building and employ many people who work here and pay taxes.

Remember the officers quarters we saved at Fort Kough that is now rotting in the field.

Lets work for something that makes sense.
Its to easy just to bitch
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Posted by Rebecca Meany (+4) 19 years ago
A friend and I passed through Miles City a few weeks ago while driving across country. Like anytime we came to a town, we stopped if it looked inviting. Miles City's old downtown certainly was appealing in an old fashioned and unique way. We walked around all afternoon and dropped a bunch of money at the antique store and one of the old restaurants. If there had been a preponderance of newer buildings on Main Street we would have driven right through. If financial considerations are the determining factor in keeping or destroying historic properties, developers would be wise to remember that visible history does make a difference to tourists, and they'll go out of their way to enjoy it.
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Posted by Robin Gerber (+34) 19 years ago
I have to say, if those old buildings were as ready to fall down as suggested, Main St. wouldn't have been blocked off for several days to allow many, many pieces of heavy machinery the space and time necessary to knock them off their foundations as was required. I personally know of several people who worked hard to try and save those buildings by offering alternatives, and offering their own time, energy and expertise to help make those alternatives work.

The basic problem was...the people making the decisions didn't want alternatives and only got angry that someone was interfering in 'their business,' not seeing it as something that effected the entire town.

And, I ask this out of true curiosity because I haven't seen any figures...exactly how many Miles Citians are going to be given jobs to help run this new HQ? How many workers will be imported? How much money will this put into the economy? If some folks say it was worth it to lose these buildings and their potential role and part of the big picture of cultural tourism (the number one industry in the state)...prove it. What would the cost of renovating those buildings have been in comparison to destroying them and building new ones? Was that checked out, or not?
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Posted by Bert Pezzarossi (+12) 19 years ago
I will say that I don't know how many Miles Citians are going to get jobs, heck I don't even know if there will be additional jobs with the expansion, but lets pretend they add 5 jobs. That means that there are either 5 more Miles Citians with jobs or 5 new families in this town, spending their paychecks at businesses in town and that is the name of the game. The more jobs there are in this community then the more that people turn over their pay at local businesses. The more working people the better the economy, period.

My argument was that if Stockman was threatening to move then you have to let them do what they want even if it meant losing these buildings and I still believe this. I understand that it was probably an IDLE threat and if they really wanted to move that they would have. My reasoning is that you should never give that large of an employer a "reason" to leave town. If they wanted to move then make them face the brunt of the bad PR by not giving them an out. The reason I say this is that it looks bad enough if a business leaves, but to me at least, it looks worse if the business can blame the town for the reason it is moving. I personally would not want a Stockman Bank to be able to use "couldn't expand because Miles City is not business friendly" as an excuse if they left. IF Stockman would have left or ever leaves I want them to have to explain why they are leaving without a ready made excuse there for them to cop out with.

I would also say that it is incorrect to assume that the threat was idle due to the restrictions that Billings places on the renovation and destruction of historic buildings. That would never have entered into their minds as a "con" to move to Billings. If Stockman had moved their headquarters to Billings they would have bought some properly zoned land in the westend and built a brand spankin new headquarters and the historic preservation regulations would NEVER have entered into the equation.

Sure land costs are higher and the cost of living is higher in Billings but that is easily solved by adding a dollar to a fee here and there and shabang the additional land costs and the additional salaries are paid for. I would also think that as far as salaries go the difference would not be as much as you think since I just betcha that Stockman has to pay a pretty penny sometimes to "intice" folks to move to our small little burg. You may not realize it since you live here, but not everyone realizes that life really is better out here, of course once they get here I am sure that most folks realize that they were silly to be aprehensive about moving to a small town in Eastern Montana. When folks live in larger cities they just can't fathom why someone would live in a small town like Miles City, trust me I know from personal experience having relocated to MC from a town of 500,000, and that sometimes makes it hard to get folks to move here.

To me the proper reason it was probably an idle threat would be that it would probably destroyed the bank in Miles City. I know that I for one would have moved my account to another bank if Stockman had moved to Billings and taken all of their jobs out of this community. I also think that there are probably enough folks of like minds that would have done the same thing and probably enough big money folks that would have done the same thing so that would have crippled what is probably one of the top performing banks in the Stockman chain. So that money probably won out over the obvious recruiting issues that I know that the bank has getting folks to relocate to such a small town.

So like I have said before I think that there needs to be some sort of happy medium for the historic folks and the economic folks. I don't pretend to know what that happy medium is, and I don't pretend to know who should make the decision, I am not rich either or powerful, but hopefully this town can work together to find the solution.
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Posted by David Schott (+17052) 19 years ago
Okay, so clearly debating the fate of the Log Cabin and NZ Shoes buildings is a moot point. The buildings are long gone by now. Yet, this issue lives on a bit in the form of another letter to the editor in the Thursday, August 22, 2002, "Miles City Star".

The letter is titled "People make a town, not buildings". The writer, a "third-generation building owner" and "concerned downtown businessman" chides the people who criticized the destruction of the buildings, and, here is what troubles me the most, stoops to name calling with a reference to the "Downtown Hysterical Society".

As far as I can tell, the people behind the Historical Society have nothing but the best of intentions. They want to promote tourism and business in Miles City and they want to see downtown Miles City remain economically viable in a world dominated by big business with homogenized strip malls and "big box" stores. It troubles me that this downtown businessman seems to miss the fact that this group ultimately has his best interests in mind.

There's nothing wrong with a little healthy debate about the fate of Miles City's historic district and it's great to hear different ideas and to consider all options. And, I think, it works best when done in a mature and friendly manner. This isn't about Miles Citian vs. Miles Citian... it's about responsible and caring Miles Citians trying to make the right decisions today for the long term good of the community.

- Dave
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