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McKinley school in Billings now on historic list

Posted at 4:12 PM, Mar 28, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-29 08:06:53-04

McKinley Elementary School recently became included on the National Register of Historic Places.

The 1906 and 1917 portions are on the list.

The 2014 part is not because it is not 50 years old and not yet eligible.

"The 1917 edition which clearly is patterned after the 1906 original," Kevin Kooistra, executive director of the Western Heritage Center said. "John Gustave Link was one of Montana's great architects. Anton Jacobs, very well known stone carver here from the Columbus area. But when they built the 2014 edition this side right here, they did something to really try to distinguish the separation."

Kooistra said the addition illustrates some of what was happening in Billings from 1906 to 1917.

Kevin Kooistra 2.PNG
KTVQ photo

"When this building was built in 1906, almost immediately, the superintendent of schools was already saying, we got to build more." Kooistra said. "So the population really is driving the need for more space and more school."

McKinley school's address is on North 31st Street. The school property takes up a whole city block, which also includes North 32nd Street, 8th Avenue North and 9th Avenue North.

It's all within or next to a neighborhood that's on the Historic Places list.

Those living in the neighborhood wanted to preserve the building.

"The North Elevation Historic District sits to the north here of McKinley," Kooistra said. "But the process for getting McKinley in the district happened started about 14 years ago. McKinley school's clearly been the anchor property along with I would say Pioneer Park for the North Elevation Historic District, kind of in this area for over 100 years."

He says it's important to preserve historic buildings.

"The places that make us feel at home, add an element of our deep history in a place," he said. "When our children or our grandchildren are going to McKinley school, there's these wonderful ties of who we are, living in a place and that's what really resonates for people."

Kooistra said many historic buildings get a different use than when originally constructed.

McKinley has always been an elementary school.