Photographer William H. Culver arrived in Lewistown in 1886 after stints in Maiden and Butte. He was particularly known for his early photographs of central Montana, including images of the renowned 1884 Judith Roundup. Shortly after he arrived in Lewistown, Culver established a studio on this site. In 1899, he and his wife May—also a photographer—decided to replace that small building with this two-story gallery, studio, and residence. Fergus County’s first free public high school held classes on the second floor of the new building in 1899, while the county school was under construction. Because there was no rail service to Lewistown until after 1903, Culver had his business block constructed from local sandstone and low-fire brick, likely manufactured by local brick maker Frank Moshner. On its completion the building was “one of the largest and most substantial” in Lewistown. The decorative, corbelled cornice and brick arches surrounding the windows reflected Culver’s civic pride and add elegance to the front façade. Suggesting the building’s specialized purpose is the bank of windows, or sidelight, that let east light into the single-story, attached studio. A ghost sign on the wall facing Fifth Avenue also offers a visual reminder of the building’s past. Clearly well suited to its purpose, the building housed photography studios continuously for almost one hundred years. In addition to William and May Culver, resident photographers included Katherine Coulter, Culver’s daughter and son-in-law, Sybil and Lute Musson, and George Brenner, whose studio closed in 1995.
The Montana National Register Sign Program
212 Fifth Avenue North, Lewistown, Montana