For those of us involved in the Fairfield Historical Society, the process seems extremely slow. In fact, the Society has been in existence for less than four years.
In the fall of 2018, a group of Fairfield citizens gathered at the offices of the Greenfields Irrigation District to see if there was enough interest in researching and preserving the history and development Sun River Project and Greenfields Irrigation District.
It was clear from that first night that there was strong interest in the company.
Through raffles, the sale of items at the Fairfield Christmas Walk and the Augusta Christmas Meet and Greet, funds were raised to apply for nonprofit status as a a 501(c)3 organization. The status was granted by the IRS soon after.
The Fairfield Chamber of Commerce kindly provided funds that had been raised in an earlier effort by Jo Brunner, John Cadigan and many others to undertake the project a few years earlier.
As the Society grew, COVID-19 hit and our meetings came to an end. Still, a few of us were gathering at the Fairfield Sun Times office to talk about the project, and Society members and volunteers went to great lengths to prepare the old office building for other endeavors. .
The building has been cleared of old, mostly broken office items, probably dating from the 70s and 80s. The paneling on the walls that looks like it was added in the 70s has been thrown away, exposing the original walls.
The Society hired Central Montana Lock and Key of Great Falls to restore the building’s large walk-in vault to working order. Documents, films, photos, books and maps, some dating back to the 1890s, have been moved to the vault for security reasons.
Throughout this, GID has been a supporting partner. When tree branches threatened the roof, the GID team quickly eliminated the threat.
Now we have to get to work on the next phases.
The Company recently applied for a grant to replace old wiring, install a new electrical box and bring the electrical system up to current code.
This was our first grant application. Applying for a grant can be a daunting undertaking, but Alan Rollo walked us through the process. Alan makes the process easy.
We’re also running a pair of raffles that will end on Groundhog Day (see the announcement on this page for details). You still have a few days left to get your tickets. Tickets can be purchased at Fairfield and Augusta. Again, for more details, please see the announcement on our next page.
Other items on the “to do” list for the office building include replacing the old furnace with a modern, energy-efficient furnace and air conditioner.
Then comes the major project, the restoration of the building as close as possible to its original state. For this purpose, the Sun Times was able to locate a study carried out by the Bureau of Reclamation. This in-depth study offers a detailed history of the structure, including a copy of the original architecture. The purpose of the study was to assess the building for historic preservation. Recognition of the building as a historic structure is just one of our goals. Such recognition will greatly benefit the town as well as the greater community of Fairfield.
As noted in the Sun Times article that helped launch the Fairfield Historical Society, “Fairfield’s Wonderful, Untapped Resource” (https://www.fairfieldsuntimes.com/news/local/fairfield-s-wonderful-untapped- resource /article_8e5850a6-1905-11e9-94e4-6719502e90e9.html), our goal is to make Fairfield a destination; not just a place to refuel before heading north… or south.
Like so many other great organizations in our community, the Society needs support. Recently, the City of Fairfield, Teton County Commissioners and the GID provided letters in support of the society’s goals. These are essential in the grant-seeking process, and the Society appreciates this support.
We also appreciate the support of our neighboring historical societies in Fort Shaw and Augusta.
Our short-term goal is to be able to open the office building to the public by 2025.
Why 2025? This year is crucial for the history of Fairfield. While Fairfield took shape in 1916 when the Sun River Project began moving its office here, it was in 1925 that a judge from Choteau approved the creation of the Greenfields Irrigation District.
If you don’t think the Sun River Project and the GID had a big impact on the area, think again. Without them, there probably wouldn’t be a Fairfield. There would be no Gibson dam or reservoir; no Pishkun Reservoir or Willow Creek. Teton County itself would be very different without these irrigation projects. Just like the Sun River Valley. Even Great Falls, because it was the leaders of that city who drove the project to success, would be different.
The GID Centennial should be the biggest celebration our community has ever seen. And for such an undertaking, the planning must begin years in advance. The Fairfield Historical Society encourages everyone to join us in honoring our past and planning for our future.
Yes, 2025 should be a big party.
Note: The Fairfield Historical Society will hold its next meeting this Thursday evening at 7:00 p.m. at the former home of the GID/Sun River Project Director. The public is invited.