The Lindley Concrete Block Factory
Building Blocks for Bozeman
The storage warehouse at 412 East Olive Street, at the north end of Bogert Park, is an anomaly in the neighborhood’s predominantly residential development pattern. Built as a concrete block factory in 1908, the building is an overlooked reminder of the industrial uses developed south of Bozeman’s Main Street in the early 20th century. Local builders used prefabricated concrete blocks manufactured in the facility to expedite and reduce the cost of construction of new residential buildings, especially for the Craftsman-style homes popular in Bozeman after 1905.
The concrete block factory was Joseph Lindley’s second industrial use in the neighborhood. Together with John Guy, Lindley developed and operated the Lindley and Guy Steam Planing Mill along Bozeman Creek in about 1880. Located where East Olive and South Rouse Avenue intersect, the mill used water from Bozeman Creek to power equipment and “finish” lumber for use in construction. The availability of old-growth timber and advent of balloon framing, which relied upon regularly dimensioned lumber, expedited construction of residential and commercial structures throughout the American West.
Harmon Palmer filed the first U.S. Patent for a machine that made concrete blocks, also known as Concrete Masonry Units or “CMUs,” in March of 1900. The St. Louis Louisiana Purchase Exposition introduced America to CMUs in 1904, and the material rapidly gained popularity. Made of aggregate, gravel, sand, water and Portland cement, CMUs represented a revolutionary step in “stone” construction. CMUs freed builders from reliance upon the availability of stone quarries, stone cutters and stone finishers to lay a foundation or finish a building in stone. Instead, manufacturers like Lindley produced regularly dimensioned blocks, which could be laid quickly and efficiently by laborers with less skill.
By 1900, Lindley’s business interests included real estate development, property and business insurance and acting as a pension agent and notary public. Born in Indiana in 1842, Lindley served in the Union Army during the Civil War.
Discharged from the Army after an injury during a battle in 1861, Lindley arrived in Virginia City, Montana Territory, via Salt Lake City, in 1863. Lindley worked freighting goods between Helena and Fort Benton, MT, until 1865, when he settled in the Gallatin Valley. Joseph and wife Rachel Lindley constructed a two story brick residence at 201 Lindley Place in 1892.
The 400 block of East Olive Street is part of the Harper Addition, which included the block bound by South Rouse and South Church Avenues, East Babcock, and both sides of East Olive Street. The 1904 Sanborn Map for the area shows the development of moderately sized residences in the neighborhood, especially along Lindley Place and South Church Avenue. What is now Bogert Park remained a large open space.
The 1908-09 Polk Directory, available in the Montana Room of the Bozeman Public Library, is the first year that lists Lindley’s business interests as “Real Estate and Insurance, Concrete Block Manufacturer.” The concrete block facility is shown on the 1912 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map as a long, narrow building running parallel to the street and set near the southern property line. In addition to the manufacturing facility, the map also recorded the residence at 406 East Olive. Part show room and part residence, the home was built of rough-faced concrete blocks in the Craftsman style in 1911.
While builders used either rough-faced concrete blocks or plain blocks to assemble foundations, rough-faced concrete blocks were used to construct entire residences in the area. Andrew J. Svorkmoe built the residence at 226 South Bozeman Avenue in 1911. The home remains in its original Craftsman bungalow design, with a gabled roof facing the street and a hipped-roof front porch.
Deed research hints at the possibility that Svorkmoe partnered with E. Broox Martin to construct the Clark Apartments, at 616 South Grand Avenue, of concrete block in 1914. Svorkmoe constructed a number of Queen Anne and Craftsman style homes as speculative investments along South Grand Avenue between 1890 and 1910; he purchased the site of the Clark Apartments in 1898.
Martin, whose business partnerships with Nelson Story involved him in banking and real estate development, capitalized on Bozeman’s growth during this time period by constructing residential housing for the working class, including the Evergreen Apartments at South Third and West Koch. The trolley line on South Grand Avenue provided public transportation to the pea canneries developed on the north east side of town in the 1910’s.
Martin commissioned Bozeman architect Fred Willson, fresh off of constructing the addition to East Willson School, to design a multi-unit apartment block on the site in 1914. Named for Martin’s wife Ella Clark Martin, the eight-unit apartment building features rough-faced concrete block quoining at the corners and plain concrete block construction on the façade. The original drawing set, on file at MSU’s Special Collections and Archives, reveals that the foundation was constructed of concrete block and faced with river rock, which varies the building’s exterior texture. The Clark Apartments are listed on the National Register of Historic Places as part of Bozeman’s Bon Ton Historic District.
Willson’s design of the concrete-block building fits within the experimentation with concrete as a material that occurred in the early 20th century. Architects such as Frank Lloyd Wright began experimenting with concrete as a malleable material which could be poured into almost any form and provide structural rigidity. Wright eventually went on to design a series of concrete-block residences in Los Angeles in the early 1920’s.
Harry Beimstroh, one of Martin’s Bozeman Milling Co. employees, began construction of two Craftsman-style concrete block houses at the corner of South Tracy Avenue and East Curtiss Street in 1911. The 1912 Sanborn Map indicates that the two structures were “unfinished and abandoned,” but Beimstroh apparently finished construction of the residences by 1914, when he was living in the center residence. Beimstroh eventually built a third residence facing Curtiss on the site, and lived in one house while renting the other two through the 1950’s. These buildings contribute to the South Tracy/ South Black Avenue Historic District.
Joseph Lindley died in Bozeman on December 29, 1915, at the age of 75. His widow, Rachel, sold the concrete block factory in the spring of 1916. Rachel Lindley died February 22, 1918. By 1922, the house at 406 East Olive was occupied by Eugene Graf, who established the Bon Ton Flour Mill and Bakery on North Wallace Avenue. The Graf family lived in the property until their Willson-designed residence at 504 West Cleveland was completed in 1934.
It’s unclear if the block manufacturing ceased with the sale of the property in 1916, or continued for a few more years. The Polk Directories do not list a business or resident at 414 East Olive through the 1930’s. By 1940, the McLouglan Construction Company was using 414 East Olive as a material yard, with Norman Hammill as superintendent. Hammill was son of Henry Hammill, a long-time Bozeman builder who worked extensively with Fred Wilson. The McLouglan Company left the site after 1944, and the concrete block factory became a storage facility which is still in use.
The Lindley concrete block factory at 414 East Olive Street is a physical reminder of the innovation in building materials and construction techniques at the beginning of the 20th century. The building has been altered since its original construction and is not listed on a historic register.