At Monday night’s Great Falls Public School District School Board meeting the administration announced that they had moved forward with a plan to purchase the Campfire Girls building and property located at 1925 2nd Avenue South for $100K. The District administration will now demolish the historic building, excavate and remove the basement foundation and bring in backfill in order to build a small surface parking lot to help alleviate the parking shortage that has been a problem for over 50 years.
The property is a standard residential lot with dimensions of 50’ x 150’. The resulting parking layout would probably be a center drive lane north and south with 45 degree parking on both sides. This layout would require an east-west total dimension of 49 feet and would provide a maximum of 20 parking spaces.
“Given the purchase price of $100K, demolition and backfill at $50K and the construction of the finished parking lot complete with lighting, curbs and landscaping at another $50K, it would bring the project to roughly $200K. That’s $10,000 per parking spot and doesn’t include maintenance! Is this expenditure of taxpayer dollars a wise investment?”
Given the purchase price of $100K, demolition and backfill at $50K and the construction of the finished parking lot complete with lighting, curbs and landscaping at another $50K, it would bring the project to roughly $200K. That’s $10,000 per parking spot and doesn’t include maintenance! Is this expenditure of taxpayer dollars a wise investment?
Keep in mind that 20 additional parking stalls will not even put a dent in the hundreds of stalls needed. There is a common sense solution to the problem, a solution used by many urban high schools across the country – structured parking – but the District chose to ignore it early on in the planning process and continues to ignore it now.
The Campfire Girls property is currently a non-conforming use on a lot which is zoned R-3, Single Family Residential. Under the District’s plan the property would have to be rezoned and the immediate neighbors might not be too pleased. But given the makeup of the City Commission, the District may be able to get the property rezoned and proceed with their plan to destroy an important part of Great Falls High School history without batting an eye.
The building now recognized as the Council headquarters of the Campfire Girls has a long and storied past. Constructed in 1929, at the same time that GFHS was built, the building began life as a gas station and immediately became the gathering place for GFHS students and was known as the Hi School Store.
By 1939 it was a hopping place, almost exclusively catering to the students.
In 1942 it even had its own designated student entrance.
Many alumni will remember it as “Dug Out Lunches” in the early seventies, just a few years after the District’s major screw up to replace the windows at the high school with inoperable fiberglass panels and take the fresh air ventilating system out of service.
Given its significant ties to Great Falls High, the Hi School Store would be eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places, just like the original four-block campus, and could see a new life serving students as it was originally intended. Wouldn’t that be great?
Of course the District has more lame plans for the GFHS campus, like tearing up the whole northeast corner to pursue another misguided attempt to solve the 50 year old parking problem. Something that the State Historic Preservation Office will certainly view with displeasure along with the inappropriate addition to connect the North and South Campuses and turn the area behind Memorial Stadium’s south scoreboard into a storage area for a new CTE facility.
Hey, but what does the District administration and the Board of Trustees care about the historic integrity of GFHS? Six out of the seven board members voted to oppose the school’s listing on the National Register. The lone supporting vote was from Chairman Jan Cahill.
Great Falls High was recently judged the “Most Beautiful High School in Montana” by Architectural Digest. Let’s keep it that way!