Moss Mansion gets a new deck with small grants that help Montana historical sites

Posted May 6, 2019

This story originally ran in the Billings Gazette on May 4, 2019.

By Rob Rogers

Like any ambitious home owner in Billings, the Moss Mansion wants to put in a new deck this summer.

Unlike that home owner, the mansion is doing it with a $3,000 grant from the Montana History Foundation.

For the past few years, the Moss Mansion has had to close off its south deck, known as the veranda, because the wood has deteriorated to such a degree that it’s no longer safe for guests to walk on. 

The $3,000 will help the mansion find and afford relatively period-appropriate materials and a contractor qualified to work on a registered historic building. Once completed, the Moss Mansion will be able again to use the deck and area on the south side of the building for concerts and events. 

“We are excited to trade the caution tape for a banner announcing participation by Montana History Foundation to help us restore access to the museum across this lovely veranda,” Corinna Sinclair, Moss Mansion operations manager, said in a statement. “Soon we will be able to stage musicians there again and use the area for premium seating at outdoor events.”

The Montana History Foundation, based in Helena, has a long history of funding small, historically significant projects through grants across the state.

Along with the Moss Mansion grant, the foundation last month also awarded grants to two projects in Lavina.

It gave a $5,000 grant to the Golden Valley Community Foundation that will help restore the exterior of the Lavina State Bank Building, which is on the National Register of Historic Places. 

It also awarded a $3,500 grant to the Friends of the Historic Adams Hotel to repaint the exterior siding of the building. The 22-room hotel was built in 1908.

Charlene Porsild, president and CEO of the foundation, explained that the goal was not only to help fund these small projects, but also to spark further development. 

“We leverage private dollars,” Porsild said. “We raise money and then we go out to these communities and say, ‘How can we help you?'”

Along with the grants, the Montana History Foundation offers training on grant writing to the small organizations they help. That training allows these groups to apply for bigger grants that ultimately lead to greater financial support for their projects. 

Starting next year the foundation will increase the amount it awards in grants, raising the ceiling to $10,000. Over the past couple years Porsild and her staff have discovered that many of the historical organizations supported by the foundation no longer have the smaller projects that benefit from the small grants they give. 

So now the Montana History Foundation will give out fewer grants of larger amounts. 

“It’s really about economic development,” she said.