BOULDER — The owners of Boulder Hot Springs Inn, Spa and Retreat Center say the exterior of the century-old building has had patchwork repairs for years. Now, thanks to a new grant program from the state, they say they’ll be able to give the whole building the attention it needs.
Last week, Gov. Greg Gianforte signed House Bill 12, which set aside nearly $5.5 million for the Montana Department of Commerce’s Historic Preservation Grant program. Boulder Hot Springs is one of 26 projects in 23 communities across the state that were awarded funding.
The hot springs, several miles south of Boulder, have been an attraction since long before Montana became a state. The current building dates back to the 1880s, and was extensively renovated into its current California Mission Revival architectural style.
Chuck Tesmer is part of the ownership group that has operated Boulder Hot Springs for about 30 years. He said the building’s plaster siding has frequently cracked or fallen off, forcing them to replace small pieces one at a time. Many of those patches don’t match with the rest of the finish and are very visible.
“It’s really like a quilt right now,” Tesmer said. “When you drive up, there’s all these dark spots, and it looks almost a little haunted.”
The building also has leaking gutters, and Tesmer said the water running off is causing damage inside the walls.
“To really secure the building long-term, we need to button up the outside,” he said.
When the inn’s manager heard about the new preservation grants, Tesmer said they saw it as an opportunity to fix the entire exterior at once. They put together a grant application, and the state selected it as one of the top priority projects – authorizing $498,500.
“It’s really exciting for us because we’re getting a chance to secure the building and bring it back to its grandeur, but also we’re seeing the support from the state, from our local community here in Boulder and the county,” said Tesmer. “People are really happy and excited that this is being saved.”
Boulder Hot Springs has operated under a number of different names and owners over the years. Tesmer said it’s served generations of visitors from the Boulder area and beyond.
“People love this place; they have memories of this place,” he said. “People come from Canada, all over, and said, ‘You know, we were here way back when.’”
Tesmer hopes to start planning work on the exterior improvements this year, then begin the actual construction in 2022. He says this project will be just the first step to where they want to take the hot springs in the future.
“We’re wanting to expand and continue to make this a healing place for people to come,” he said.
The money for the Historic Preservation Grant program comes from the state tax on hotel rooms and campgrounds. In 2019, the Montana Legislature increased that tax by one percent to fund the Montana Heritage Center project in Helena and other historical projects around the state.
You can find a full list of projects receiving this grant funding on the Montana Department of Commerce website.