The Double Arrow Barn before the roof collapsed in a record winter a few years ago.
November 25, 1999
Seeley Swan Pathfinder
Seeley Lake, Montana
by Addrien Marx
Last week I opened the old heavy doors to the Double Arrow Barn and walked inside. Sunshine and a mild warmth tried to invade the cold, dark interior, but the attempt was feeble and I shivered, wondering why I had come. I touched the old spike that served to hold the rope or perhaps, a lantern, and it came back - why I had come. I used to feel it when I would visit my grandmother. She had, at that time, far outlived those who had shared the intentness of her youth, and the memories she had were only to be told - not to be shared by others who had lived the memory.
The barn seemed to share my mood - a feeling of time pressing on - an excitement for the future but a loneliness and grief for those we would loose along the way. A few days earlier, the barn had lost one of its remaining "childhood friends" when Bob Manchester passed away at the age of 80 years. Bob told us his stories and shared his memories - Bob loved this barn and eager to see its transformation to a Historical Museum and Visitors Center. Instead of his help in setting up interpretation and research, we must now be content to record and share his story within the stalls that once shuddered with eager stallions and the anticipation of a new day in a valley that was yet to be tamed. But the progress to that end seems so slow.
Slow, but the sixty foot timbers that provide the center floor between the stalls tell me that the body of the barn is in no hurry - it will survive for a new century. If only man could be so timeless. Stories are being recorded, pictures and collections promised - but seemingly, the "childhood friends" of our heritage are leaving. The museum needs to be functioning, holding on to the valley's historical memory, and creating a tie to the past that will not be lost. Too quickly we are loosing that tie.
Two years ago, the Historical Museum and Visitor Center received its first grant of $55,000 from the Tourism Infrastructure Investment Program. That grant was followed by a $48,650 award from the U.S. Forest Service's Rural Community Assistance grant and with the last moneys being received from the Plum Creek Foundation in the amount of $7,500. Local individuals, contractors, and businesses have also contributed to the rebuilding and restoration of the old Double Arrow Barn. The fundraising has been a success, but final money needed to complete the project is proving the most difficult to obtain.
The Board of Directors for the facility - Gary Miller, Bruce Johnson, Ed Bezanson, Zoe Mohesky, and Addrien Marx - have concentrated on grant writing for most of the funds needed. With the advent of the upcoming Bicentennial of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, tourism will have a high impact on this valley with its close proximity to the main trail and the availability of campgrounds and services coupled with an alluring amount of mountain lakes and two wilderness areas.
The Visitor Center. As I climbed the winding stairs that encompass the handicapped elevator shaft (a $20,000 line item yet to be installed), I moved past the urgency of creating and offering a museum to the needs of a tourism center. The potential in the spacious second level is exciting, but for now only my footsteps across the floor echo on the cathedral ceiling above. The visitors should be here making use of the resources and services we can provide for their sojourn in the valley, but the picture window that opens to the breathtaking Swan front is boarded up.
As I walked down the stairs, it became clearer why I had come - to gather the wisdom and the strength to do what we had to do, just as I would visit my grandmother for a little extra push. We have come so far on this project - but the final push would involve asking for financial donors. Working hard to capitalize on all the moneys that might be available, now we are asking individuals to lend their support through cash donations. Before I closed the heavy doors, a heavy, waiting silence seemed to bid me farewell, like the silence I felt when my grandmother would wave out her kitchen window until I drove from sight. But for the board and for others in this valley, the onus is really one of urgency. The Visitor Center is a very critical need and the museum is just waiting for its story to be told.
This is a serious request for financial assistance that would head us toward completion of the barn facility. An estimated $100,000 would open the facility on both floors. The handicap elevator, water, power, plumbing, electrical, fixtures, and display cabinets are the main projects. In the words of Doug Hammill, veterinarian and Montana historian, "This will be the most unique and intriguing museum and visitor center in the State!" But the time has come to ask for major assistance in financing the completion.
As I walked away from the barn, I knew the time for reflection and visions of the future had passed. To ask for substantial donations is difficult, to make the need and urgency understandable is equally so. Please contact any of the board members with questions or how you can become a major donor to the Seeley Lake Historical Museum and Visitor Center. This is a matter of urgency.