In November, Kate Hampton from the Montana State Historical Society addressed the Hamilton City Council about the idea of forming a historical commission to preserve the beautiful historical sites in this city. This was Kate's third time over the past several years visiting Hamilton and offering to help the city develop this program which has been replicated in more than 15 cities around the state.
This time the city council was receptive to the idea whereas in the past, for whatever reason, it was not. While this idea was favorably received, it takes time to develop such a program and the initial steps are now being considered by members of the council.
Unfortunately, this movement has come too late to save one of the most beautiful and historic sites in our city. St. Francis Catholic Church received approval from the zoning board of adjustment last week to tear down the church and build a new one in its place.
Many people have their opinions as to what should be done with St. Francis Church.
The local church leadership sees the demolition of the church as the only reasonable path. Another group, the Southside Historical Preservation Committee has proposed that the church committee consider repairing the existing building to maintain the historical heritage of the church and the area of the city in which the church is located.
The church is on the National Historical Register but it will lose that status if they demolish the church. St. Francis Church, the land having been donated by Marcus Daly, is such an important part of the historic nature of the city that this would be a great loss.
It serves as the anchor for the other buildings in the area that were built or commissioned by Marcus Daly, including St. Paul's Episcopal Church, the McCracken house, and several other structures in the south-side area of town.
The approval by the zoning board of adjustment provides for a six month window to begin work. The church committee, in a recent article in the Ravalli Republic, stated that they do not believe they will be in a position to begin work in that timeframe. The first point, then, is why did they ask for approval at this time. The second point is that there is still time to stop this project from moving forward.
Finances appear to be the biggest hurdle and we would encourage all parishioners and concerned citizens to hold off on donating to this project until more information can be gathered and other alternatives can be considered.
The Southside Historical Preservation Committee. Deidre Engelman and Nansu Roddy, co-chairs; Tom Tunny, secretary; Jack Engelman, treasurer; Alene Tunny, Cynthia Stotz-Capelle, Ty Capelle, Joan and Dave Bryan, Alex Shaffer