From the Library Archives: The Calvert Hotel by Nancy Watts

The Calvert Hotel at 216 7th Ave. South was built in 1917 as a dormitory for the Fergus County High School students who lived outside of Lewistown. “Many could easily commute by train as several of the outlying towns were on the Milwaukee and Great Northern railroad lines.” (History of the Lewistown School District #1-Zellick).

Bruce Stanton was the builder and Wasmansdorff and Eastman were the architects. “The structure was built in 2 halves. Each being a mirror reflection of the other. The southern half was erected in 1917.” (National Register). The northern half was built in 1919.

“Rudolph von Tobel, chairman of the high school board, outlined the high school dormitory plan…for several years the board of the trustees of the High School have considered the advisability of erecting a dormitory for pupils from Fergus County who are not residents of Lewistown. The board has always been unanimous regarding the necessity of such an institution and two years ago they asked for authority to issue bonds in the sum of $40,000 for this purpose, which the voters of the county declined to grant.

…. it has been suggested to the board that such a building might be constructed by private funds. At a recent meeting of the board it was estimated that a building to accommodate from 40 to 50 pupils was immediately necessary and that such a building could be constructed for about $18,000, and a suitable site …of a tract 90 by 100 feet at the corner of 7th Ave and Watson St. known as the W.R. Woods property can be had for $2500.”(“Fergus County Democrat,” August 17, 1916). 

“The Fergus County Improvement Company filed their articles of incorporation with the County Clerk and Recorder Friday. This is the company which proposes building the high school dormitory. The company is to be organized for a period of 40 years. (“Fergus County Democrat,” September 14, 1916). 

“Ground was broken Friday for the foundation of the new high school dormitory.” (“Fergus County Democrat, September 21, 1916).

“The high school dormitory building costing $25,000 is now rapidly approaching completion and will very soon be in use. This building came into existence as a result of a crying need for rooms for students from the outside desiring to attend high school. Three stories in height, it is arranged to accommodate 60 students. It is steam heated, equipped with laundry, baths, hot and cold water in every room and ample fire escapes. The building will be under the supervision of a provost and matron, the upper floor being for girls and the middle floor for boys. The pupils in the manual training department are now competing for prizes for the best design and executed study tables etc., for the dormitory building. (“Democrat News,” Dec. 17, 1916). 

“Students moved into the dormitory on Monday but not all of the furniture has yet arrived but the students are being made comfortable and living conditions promised to be very wholesome. (“Fergus County Democrat,” February 8, 1917).

“The high school dormitory is now completed and Saturday evening supper was served there for the first time. While some of the equipment has not yet arrived, local establishments have helped out by loaning furniture and by the end of this week at least 20 boys and 14 girls will be comfortably located in the new building. Mrs. W.W. White is in charge of the dormitory as matron.” (“Fergus County Democrat,” February 15, 1917).

But by late 1917…”The girls’ dormitory is overcrowded and some girls have been taken care of in homes. A new dormitory for boys at 1017 W. Main Street is accommodating 30 additional boys and 18 have been placed in homes. (“Fergus County Democrat,” September 13, 1917).

“Just at present the prospects look rather bright…..for securing additional dormitory accommodations l.” (“Fergus County Democrat,” June 19, 1919).

The second half of the dormitory was built in 1919: “… high school dormitory nearing completion.” (“Fergus County Argus,” January 23, 1920).

“By 1925, the breakdown of central Montana agriculture resulted in bank failures and the loss of funds and tax money. Fergus County High school was among those who lost funds and the dormitory had to be closed. The dormitory was sold to Mrs. Emma Marsh in 1928, who adapted the facility for use as a hotel and named it the Calvert. In addition to the hotel and dining services, the Calvert continued to serve many rural students, as it had done in the dormitory days, allowing them to work for their keep while attending high school.” (“Montana Historical and Architectural Survey” Sievert).

The Fergus County High School dormitory was built in 1917 by the Fergus County Improvement Company after the citizens of Lewistown voted down the bond issue.
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