Bend Guard Station
Lolo National Forest, Montana, 1998
by C. Milo McLeod, Forest Archaeologist
The Lolo NF Heritage program and the Plains/Thompson Falls District completed the two-week Bend Guard Station (Restoration) PIT project in May 1998. The Bend Guard Station was formerly a ranger station on the Cabinet NF until 1954 when it was transferred to the Lolo NF and became a guard station for the Plains District. The Bend complex consists of the original 1911 log ranger station as well as a 1920s frame cookhouse/bunkhouse, gas house, and storage shed. The entire complex has been determined eligible for listing in the NRHP for its association with early FS activities on the upper Thompson River and in northwest Montana. Currently the facility is used as an administrative site by district personnel when needed and as a cabin rental available to the public the remainder of the year. The Plains/Thompson Falls District has been conducting preservation maintenance at the Bend Guard Station since the early 1990s, and much has been accomplished. The guard station was selected for a PIT project in the fall of 1997 as a mechanism to provide “people power” to accomplish tasks the district could not easily tackle with current budgets and personnel constraints. During the two PIT sessions, 11 PIT volunteers from across the country worked alongside district and supervisor’s office employees learning hands-on skills such as wood-shingle roofing, paint preparation, finish carpentry, and masonry techniques. The volunteers were also provided excellent instruction in historic preservation philosophy. Most of the PIT volunteers were veterans of other projects from across the country. They arrived at Bend fully aware of the work involved and well prepared for the week ahead. In fact, many were experienced carpenters or brought other skills essential to the success of the project. The volunteers contributed a total of 460 hours; valued conservatively (given their overall high experience level) at $12 per hour, their labor contribution totaled $54,520. The success of the Bend Guard Station (Restoration) PIT project should not be measured simply in donated hours and projects completed, which was sizable indeed. Accomplishments include: completing the masonry foundation for the 1911 log building, the wood-shingle roof on the storage barn, and interior work on the log building; rebuilding the barn doors; paneling the interior of the gas house; and constructing a masonry fire ring near the cookhouse. Moreover, the project’s success is reflected in the continued and increased public commitment and understanding of heritage resources and the overall FS mission. Our volunteers ranged from a retired BLM area manager to a museum curator from Manhattan, New York. The success of their labor contribution is evident visiting Bend Guard Station today.
Finally, the success of this PIT project depended on the support of District Ranger Dick Smith, Plains/Thompson Falls Fire Management Officer Rob Seli, Supervisory Forestry Technician Dave Petteys, and Don Bray of the Plains District (who served as our excellent cook). In addition, the support from Exhibit Specialist Kirby Matthew, and Preservation Carpenter Willy King of Grant Khors National Historic Site greatly added to the success of the project, especially the masonry portion. Architect Ken Duce, Archaeological Technician Kristin Whisennad, and Archaeologist Jennifer Eberlien served as project supervisors and provided logistical support. Without their efforts the Bend Guard Station (Restoration) PIT project would not have happened.