Montana Tech's Reed House Shines During Dust To Dazzle Event

The Reed House located on the Montana Technological University Campus
The Reed House located on the Montana Technological University Campus

There is a lot of growth and construction to be excited about happening on the Montana Technological University campus and one of the projects that has been the most fun to watch is the restoration of the Reed House located behind the Chancellor's residence and next to Prospector Hall.  

For months the site has been bustling with activity and this past Saturday community members had the opportunity to see the progress firsthand during the annual Citizens for Preservation and Restoration Dust to Dazzle Tour.

Chancellor Les P. Cook reflected, “The Reed House has incredible appeal from both an architecture and location standpoint. We are fortunate to have it on campus and enjoyed the opportunity to show it off during Dust to Dazzle. While it has a storied past, we look forward to possibilities for its future. Finding just the right purpose will be important for the campus. Anytime we can beautify campus space it helps the morale for everyone that steps foot on campus to visit, work, or attend.”

Interior of Reed House and tour-goers during the Dust to Dazzle Event
Interior of Reed House and tour-goers
during the Dust to Dazzle Event

The Dust to Dazzle event features completed and ongoing renovation projects in Butte’s historic district. The tour provides an opportunity to view several structures in varying stages of renovation, some mid-renovation, these are the dust locations, and some that are complete, the dazzle stops on the tour.

The event serves as Butte CPR’s primary fundraiser, though the event’s main purpose is to inspire people to purchase and restore historic buildings in Uptown Butte by showing what great results can be achieved while bringing historic buildings back from the brink.

Dr. Larry Smith, Montana Technological University Professor Emeritus and current CPR President shared, "CPR is a group of citizens that work to preserve historic buildings in Butte to promote revitalization in our community. We do this through advocacy, mostly on the City-County level, education, and support of building owners. Nearly all our funds are raised by volunteer activities."

During the Dust To Dazzle tour, owners or stewards are present to explain their renovation process, problems encountered, and motivations. Butte CPR volunteers serve as guides, providing additional information. A short history of each building and its National Register significance is available as well.

guests arriving at the Reed House
Dust To Dazzle attendees
arriving at Reed House

This year’s “dazzle” properties were homes at 319 N. Montana St. and 1135 W. Mercury St. plus a completed condo unit in the O’Rourke Building, 101 W. Quartz. The “dust” properties included the upper floors of the Elks Lodge, 206 W. Galena; a former boarding house at 444 W. Broadway being renovated into apartments and the Reed House in the heart of the Montana Technological University campus which served as the location for a silent auction featuring mostly historic items.

The Reed House is a beautiful Craftsman-style home built in approximately 1915 by Alexander and Agnes (Leys) Christie, both immigrants from Scotland.

Alexander and his brother-in-law James Leys ran a successful jewelry store in Uptown Butte for decades. Family members occupied the home until 2015, and then due to the central campus location, Montana Tech was able to purchase it. The home features original woodwork and beautiful built-ins as well as some old Craftsman-style light fixtures. The home sat vacant for many years until recently when restoration work began.

Former Montana Tech Career Services employee Kathlene McNamee who attended this year's tour described " While working at Montana Tech's north campus, I was always intrigued by the house in the middle of the campus.  It was somewhat dark and mysterious, and almost 'off limits' by its stature.  So when we were able to tour it during the most recent Dust to Dazzle event, I jumped at the chance -- and I was not disappointed.  I have always loved Craftsmen houses and this one was truly a treat.  I could just imagine how magnificent it was in its heyday!  Given its central location, I am thrilled that it will become a warm, gathering place in the future.  I believe it has the potential of being another gem on the Tech campus!"

silent auction items
Dust To Dazzle attendees look over
treasures at the Reed House for the
event's silent auction

Work completed so far on the renovation of the house includes lots of painting including the exterior wood trim around the windows, as well as the trim, fascia, and soffit along the roof line, and the underside ceiling of the front porch. The damaged exterior siding was removed and replaced with new shake siding. The broken concrete was replaced along with a rebuild of the front entrance steps.

Crews have re-tuck-pointed the broken and missing mortar joints and brick around the house, mainly on the front porch. Both the front and back doors to the house have been replaced and the back entrance point was widened to allow for future ADA accessibility. The back porch has been rebuilt and it sports a new metal railing and steps. There is a rebuilt cellar access door. Overgrown and damaged bushes have been removed and in September of this year, the yard will be re-landscaped, irrigation sprinklers will be installed, a retaining wall along the gravel driveway will be built, and new plant material will be installed in some decorative landscape beds.

Stephanie Cook who served as the campus lead for the event noted,  "It was interesting to hear people's reactions; some remembered the overgrown house as a student, some have always wanted to see the inside, and others had no idea the house existed and wondered how it ended up surrounded by the campus. A few women reminisced of times spent in the house from years back."

While there are many ideas and possibilities for the future, a specific use for the Reed House hasn't been identified yet. And while there is still plenty of work to do, once completed the Reed House is sure to dazzle.


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