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  • Writer's pictureLara Birkes

History Revisited

Integrating the past with the present

View of the Teslow grain tower against a stormy sky

Livingston, Montana has an opportunity. It’s a resourceful community, so it has many. But one in particular comes to mind: repurposing the iconic Teslow grain elevator.

Positioned on the banks of the Yellowstone River, and at the base of the Absorka Mountains, Livingston was once the gateway to Yellowstone National Park. Natural surroundings aside, the Teslow is one of the town’s most iconic images.

Rising distinctly above the skyline, this wooden structure is a tribute to the history that links ranchers to the railroad, and by extension crops to global markets. For those that call the West home, these native skyscrapers are omnipresent reminders of the past. Standing tall, albeit weathered by time, the lofty constructs linger as symbols of the frontier’s rural heritage.

Once loading at a rate of 1,000 bushels an hour, today’s elevators now fill 20 to 30 times faster. Over time small towns lost business, but the elevators remained. Sadly, it’s not always easy to integrate these unique structures with 21st century community interests.

In the piece Standing Against the Wind, the complexity of this dilemma for rural communities is summarized. The author rightfully notes the Teslow is one of the lucky ones, as a handful of dedicated residents saved it from imminent demolition in 2016.

Similar efforts are underway for the Hobson elevators with a fundraiser to “keep them alive!” And the Misco Mill Gallery now calls Bozeman’s 1933 grain elevator home. So what does the future of the Teslow hold?

Adaptive reuse is the technical term, effectively reusing old buildings for a purpose other than what they were designed for originally. This might encompass water towers, shipping containers, transformed viaducts or old factories.

So what’s the Teslow’s adaptive reuse? That’s the opportunity before Livingston. Might a start-up hub be one way to repurpose? What about a climbing wall, distillery, co-working space or vertical farm? The possibilities abound! So what does its future hold? Submit ideas and thoughts on potential investors to:

Of course this requires creativity and considerable capital investment. But that’s the innovative challenge to Montana entrepreneurs, historical preservationists, architects, impact investors and residents alike.

The ability to reimagine the past, while reaching into the future. That’s the Teslow opportunity.


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