Charles A. Bovey: Pioneer In The Preservation Of Montana's Living History
Charles Bovey was a wealthy Minnesota native who came to Great Falls, Montana, in the 1920s. He was a businessman, a farmer, a rancher, and a politician. Most significant, however, was his life-long devotion to preserving facets of Montana’s neglected, and in some cases nearly forgotten, history. Bovey’s pioneering efforts have resulted in the preservation of individual landmarks in many Montana cities such as Fort Benton and Craig; the restoration of Virginia City, Montana’s second territorial capital; and in the formation of several organizations dedicated to continuing the preservation efforts that Bovey began. Though Bovey was a pioneer in preservation efforts in Montana, he was not alone in his efforts to preserve America’s living history. The preservation movement in the United States began in the years following World War I, largely in response to the invention and widespread popularity of the automobile.1 As the majority of Americans came to embrace the automobile, great changes were made to the American landscape to accommodate the new mobile lifestyle. Highways, parking lots, and filling stations began to appear throughout the nation, replacing many historic buildings and landmarks in their paths. Despite the stimulation the economy received as a result of this increased mobility, there were a few who questioned the “‘progressive’ nature of these changes.”2 Although it was almost always an uphill battle, this first generation of preservationists often dedicated their lives to trying to protect historic buildings and communities from being destroyed.