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MTHS Announces Heritage Keeper, Heritage Guardian Awards

Arlyne Reichert and Margie Smith are recipients of the 2022 Heritage Keeper award, while The Sons and Daughters of Montana Pioneers recently were named as the prestigious 2022 Heritage Guardian winners.

Both awards are bestowed annually by the Montana Historical Society Board of Trustees.

The Heritage Keeper Award honors Montanans who provide distinguished service to the state and people of Montana by protecting our history and culture. The Montana Heritage Guardian Award recognizes the outstanding record of accomplishment of a person or organization, who have had a profound impact on Montana’s history.

Awardees have demonstrated exemplary commitment, effort, and impact in identifying, preserving, and presenting Montana’s historical and cultural heritage for current and future generations

“These awards represent the highest honor the Historical Society can bestow upon those doing the daily work of saving Montana’s past for future generations,” said Hal Stearns, MTHS board president. “Their contributions, and their level of devotion, are amazing.”

Arlyne Reichert

Reichert is known as Great Falls’ “Bridge Lady,” after spending nearly three decades working to save the Tenth Street Bridge. The iconic concrete arch bridge, which spans the Missouri River, was erected in 1920. It is Montana’s longest and oldest open-spandrel, ribbed-concrete arch bridge.

Reichert tirelessly forged partnerships, gathered community support, and raised more than $1 million for restoration of the bridge. Her work began in 1996 when the city built the Eagle Falls Bridge across the Missouri River and closed the Tenth Street Bridge, slating it for demolition. Reichert founded the nonprofit Preservation Cascade to raise funds and guide efforts to save and restore the endangered structure.

Today, it’s a pedestrian and bike pathway.

Reichert will be honored in Great Falls during a ceremony on June 1 at the Mansfield Convention Center, Paris Gibson Room, for her tireless devotion and commitment to saving the Tenth Street Bridge.

Margie Smith

For more than 40 years, Smith – a lifelong Anaconda resident – has been a strong force within the Smelter City's historic preservation community. Her determination, grit, and get-it-done mindset saved the Anaconda Copper Mining Company’s smokestack, the Montana Hotel, and the annual Smelterman’s Day celebration.

The Anacondans to Preserve the Stack committee formed in 1982 when the Atlantic Richfield Company (ARCO) dismantled and demolished the smelting complex at the top of the hill. Before ARCO demolished the smelter’s iconic stack, Smith began working with the grassroots group to raise funds and seek creative solutions to save the complex’s most visible and evocative structure.

Smith’s collaborator in the project, John Cozby, recalled in 2018 that she “was the one behind not only getting people together to save the stack, but (also) to organize the group as a corporation so we were recognized legally.” Smith also nominated the stack to the National Register of Historic Places and negotiated a no‐cost proposal with Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks to designate the 585‐foot stack a state park. Today, the stack is beloved as an icon of Anaconda’s industrial mining heritage.

In 2018, Smith revitalized the Anaconda Company’s annual Smelterman’s Day, an event previously held by the company, to bring people to Anaconda to celebrate the centennial of the stack. The popular event now features a weekend full of activities, including bus tours to the base of the stack, an art walk, a brewfest, a half-marathon, and an oral history recording booth. In two years, the event raised $19,000 for the stack’s preservation.

For more than ten years, Margie Smith and her husband Pete also have worked to preserve the Montana Hotel, a corner landmark in downtown Anaconda. They founded the Anaconda Restoration Association and, with help from an army of volunteers, wrote grants and raised more than $100,000 to reconstruct the failing west lobby floor system, install historically sensitive flooring, and introduce a new entryway to the space. The project brought back a first-class space for the community to gather and gave new life to a valuable historic building in Anaconda.

The time and place for Smith’s award is yet to be determined.

Sons and Daughters of Montana Pioneers

The Sons and Daughters of Montana Pioneers (SDMP) has been protecting, safeguarding, and preserving Montana history for 130 years. The group stores a historically significant collection of photographs, books, reference works, meeting minutes, correspondence, financial records, digital assets, and artifacts in its office in the Montana Historical Society building in Helena.

Foremost among its accomplishments is the generous donation of the land on which the Montana Historical Society sits just east of the Montana State Capitol. Along with help from veterans’ organizations, the Sons and Daughters group was instrumental in establishing a permanent home for the Montana Historical Society.

SDMP also supports the James Kovatch/SDMP history scholarship at the University of Montana-Western, the Montana History Teacher of the Year Award, and a history room at Bannack State Park. Additionally, members perpetuate preservation of Montana history by donating their time, knowledge, family heirlooms, and records to local museums statewide. In 2001, members planned, collected, and edited Dreams Across the Divide, a collection of 90 Montana pioneer family stories.

MTHS Director Molly Kruckenberg will present the Heritage Guardian Award to the Sons and Daughters of Montana Pioneers at its annual meeting Aug. 19 in Butte.

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