Sunday, May 27, 2012
BOURGEOIS HOUSE & STARR GALLERY
From the Great Falls Tribune, May 27, 2012
Old Fort Benton opens Bourgeois House, Starr Gallery
The Bourgeois House at the fort in Fort Benton houses the Starr Gallery. TRIBUNE PHOTO/LARRY BECKNER Fay Todd, left, talks about a Bob Scriver bronze sculpture with Jeffrey Alpizar in the Starr Gallery at the Bourgeois House in Fort Benton Saturday. TRIBUNE PHOTO/LARRY BECKNER
In late May 1855, Andrew Dawson, the American Fur Company's chief trader at Fort Benton, wrote in his daily log, "cloudy, rainy, disagreeable day."
On the next day Dawson wrote, "fort full of water."
The next, "another rainy day."
And then on May 26, exactly 157 years before the River and Plains Society dedicated the newest addition to the old Fort Benton museum complex, Dawson wrote, "more showers."
The assembled audience chuckled as River and Plains Society Board Member Randy Morger read from the old logs. Outside, a drizzling rain neatly echoed Dawson's observations from a century and a half ago.
Some things never change.
Inside too, little seemed to have changed from the fur trading days. Trade blankets and powder horns lined the shelves at the trade store. A buffalo head kept watch over the assembled audience, staring out from above a cracking fire in the adobe fireplace.
After the dignitaries had given their speeches, and rounds of heart-felt applause had been showered upon the many people who made the dedication possible, the audience was invited to step out into the rain, cross the inner courtyard and enter old fort's newest addition.
After more than 15 years of planning, preparation and finally construction, the Bourgeois House and the Starr Gallery of Western Art are at last completed. Saturday marked their grand opening.
Standing on the exact site from which the American Fur Company once operated a vast frontier trading empire, the Bourgeois House and Starr Gallery are certain to delight anyone with an interest in authentic western history and and appreciation for rare western art.
"Come on in and see what we have to offer," said River and Plains trustee Jack Lepley as he invited the crowd in.
The Bourgeois House is a faithful recreation of the office, living quarters and council room of the Bourgeois, the title given to the chief trader at each of the American Fur Company's trading posts. And contained within this important structural tribute to Montana's past is another, equally impressive treasure — the Starr Gallery of Western Art.
For its inaugural exhibit, the Starr Gallery is featuring 18 sculptures by famed Montana artist Bob Scriver, rare Karl Bodmer prints contributed by the Starr Foundation, and John Mix Stanley's original portrait of Alexander Culbertson, founder of Fort Benton in 1846.
"Authenticity, culture and history — what better place than Fort Benton to find that?" asked Pam Gosink from the Montana Office of Tourism. "Congratulations on a job well done."