North Tracy District
Friday Aug. 30th, 2013
Bozeman’s North Tracy Historic District is a three block area of modest, working-class residences built between East Beall and East Peach Streets between 1890 and 1930. The neighborhood earned National Register Historic District listing as a representation of the residential neighborhood that stretched from Main Street to the Gallatin County Fair Grounds. Architectural styles in the district include folk Victorian, Queen Anne, Craftsman and Depression-Era bungalows.
The Northern Pacific Railway’s arrival in 1883 caused a period of growth in Bozeman. Merchants built new brick commercial structures on Main Street, the industrial area along the railroad tracks grew and developers added residential districts to the Original Townsite both north and south of Main Street.
Much of the land between Lamme and Peach Streets was originally owned by William Beall. A Pennsylvania-born architect, contractor, builder and rancher, William Beall arrived in Montana in 1863 by way of Kansas and Colorado. He constructed some of the earliest structures in Bozeman, including John Bozeman’s cabin and William Alderson’s house, and the town’s first frame school house in 1868.
Along with Daniel Rouse and John Bozeman, William Beall laid out the town site of Bozeman in 1864, and used the Pre-Emption Act of 1841 to claim the land a half mile west and a half mile north of the corner of Main Street and Bozeman Avenue. Like Rouse, Beall sold or gave away most of the Main Street property to encourage development in a fledgling Bozeman, and farmed the land further from the small commercial district for the next 20 years. Beall Park, on North Bozeman Avenue, is the location of the Beall farmstead.
Beall began platting additions to the City of Bozeman in the 1880’s. The 1890 Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps record a vegetable garden at the west end of Block M of the Original Plat, which is bound by North Tracy, East Beall and East Lamme Streets. By 1904 residences anchored each corner of these blocks and by 1912 dwellings lined both sides of the street.
In the years up to 1900 development north and south of Main Street mixed social and economic groups. As seen in the South Tracy/ South Black Historic District, modest structures joined more elaborate houses to create eclectic neighborhoods with a wide range of architectural norms.
A number of plausible reasons may explain the development of an economic division north and south of Main Street after the turn of the 20th century. Numerous sources note improvements made to the south side such as sidewalks, sanitary sewer and water service, and that these improvements were not simultaneously completed north of Main Street. Perhaps the gravity needed to create drainage for sewer and water, development rights, or political connections are to blame.
After 1900, nonetheless, streets north of Bozeman increasingly became the address of railroad men, clerks and other blue collar workers. Construction techniques continued to utilize “vernacular” forms, or – houses based on traditional forms and built without an architect’s expertise. The North Tracy Historic District represents what was once a large expanse of similarly modest structures.
The Harrison House at 322 North Tracy Avenue is an example of a vernacular house form common throughout the east, south and Midwest. The “I-House” usually had two rooms on either side of a central hall. Sometimes two stories in height, additions to the rear often turned the “I” into an “L” shape. George Harrison, a stone mason who arrived in Montana in 1876 and was one of several black residents in 19th century Bozeman, built this I-house of load bearing brick sometime before 1891. The house is three rooms wide and one room deep, typical of I-House construction, and this is the only remaining example of brick I-House construction in the city. A wood-frame I-House remains at 411 North Tracy Avenue.
Fred Jacobs, a carpenter who lived at 405 South Tracy Avenue at the time, constructed identical houses at 415 and 423 North Tracy Avenue in 1909. The porch at 415 North Tracy has been enclosed, but the unusual ashular foundation of both houses is a character-defining feature.
A postal clerk named George Roby was one of Jacobs’ first tenants at 415 North Tracy. Apparently the neighborhood suited Roby, as he had a home built for himself two doors up at 427 North Tracy in 1910. The National Register nomination calls 427 North Tracy “a very fine example of the Bungalow style,” and noted that “this hip roofed house displays ornate exposed rafter tails, and three hip dormers, characteristic of the style.” Roby remained in the house until the 1940’s.
Contractors continued to build the popular bungalow-style homes in the North Tracy District into the 1930’s. Lou Sievert, a local carpenter built a bungalow at 514 North Tracy in 1925 and lived in the house temporarily, until it sold. He then built a bungalow at 518 North Tracy in 1929 and rented it to a relative named Cecil Sievert. Cecil apparently was in the family business, as he’s listed as a carpenter in a 1930 Polk Directory. In 1932 Sievert repeated the build-then-sell process when he built 512 North Tracy. Sievert built bungalows across Bozeman, including in the South Tracy Historic District and the Cooper Park Historic District.
The house at 501 North Tracy was the last house built on the street, in 1950. It was not included in the National Register nomination, as the house was only 36 years old when the nomination was written in 1986. The house should be included in the historic district, as a representation of modest “Minimal Traditional” style homes built during the Depression and Post WWII years. Its scale, massing and directional expression mimics the existing precedent in the neighborhood, creating a visual continuation of the North Tracy District.
While not as grand as the homes lining South Willson or South Grand Avenues, the residences in the North Tracy Historic District are an important representation of the variety of people who lived and worked in Bozeman during our history.
Courtney Kramer is a proud graduate of MSU’s History Department and serves as the City of Bozeman’s Historic Preservation Officer. She may be contacted at the City Planning Office, 406-582-2260 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. More information about Bozeman’s historic districts is available at www.preservebozeman.org