Glasgow, MT

Glasgow, MT

After entering Montana from the east, the first town of any size on Rte. 2 is Glasgow (pop. 3,250).  We took a site there for one night in a nice little RV park behind a motel and set out to see the sights in this little town.

The main drag in downtown Glasgow

Seems like almost everyone in Montana drives some sort of large, loud pick-up truck.  Check out the vehicles outside a local watering hole in the downtown (in the middle of a Wednesday afternoon).  The right side of the street is nothing but pick-ups!

OK, the downtown tour didn’t take very long.  So what else is there to see in the Glasgow area?

During the 1960s, Glasgow had double the population it has today, due to an Air Force base about 15 miles north of town that closed in the late 60s.  When John looked at the base on Google Satellite, it appeared that the runway was still in usable shape.  And it also looked like cars were parked outside some of the old base housing units.  What’s up with that?  We couldn’t resist driving north across the prairie to check this place out.

A little research revealed another great example of your tax dollars at work.  Glasgow Air Force Base was opened in 1957 as a fighter base.  In 1960 it became part of the Strategic Air Command (SAC) and the runway was expanded to accommodate giant B-52 bombers.  The B-52s were transferred to Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War and the base closed in 1968.  So the military built this large facility, complete with housing, schools, and recreation areas, and abandoned it after eleven years!

The runway itself and surrounding buildings are now owned by the Montana Aviation Research Company, a subsidiary of the Boeing Company.  Boeing maintains the 13,000 foot runway and  uses the facility as a test facility for new aircraft.

Today most of the extensive facilities built by the military to support the base stand empty and in decay.

Empty enlisted men’s barracks

Former school building

Empty base church

When the base closed, the housing was purchased and offered for sale to private individuals.  Most of the base housing stands empty and dilapidated.  But about 240 hardy people own and live in homes they purchased from the government that is now a community called St. Marie, MT.

A ride through the community reveals a very strange situation.  Some of the houses are well-maintained with nicely trimmed lawns.

But they are then surrounded by dozens of houses that look like this.

A few of the many duplexes are also in great condition.

But again, they are surrounded by many that look like this one.

A ride through the pot-hole filled streets of the former base housing area known as St. Marie borders on the bizarre.  The people we did see there seemed very friendly (some even waved to us) and happy, but imagine living in a ghost town on the Montana prairie 15 miles from the nearest small town!

Next up for us – Havre, MT.  More on that later . . .


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13 Responses to Glasgow, MT

  1. I was just wondering the other day if we would somehow be able to cross paths on your way towards Montana, but looks like that won’t happen unfortunately! We are already in Colorado. Sorry we weren’t able to meet up but can’t wait to hear about your Glacier visit. And what a fascinating post about that air force base!

  2. Janna says:

    Wow!! You did really pick small town, miles and miles from anything Montana!!

  3. LuAnn says:

    Another area I will just have to see through your eyes as I think the chances of us getting there are slim. Very sad about the Air Force base. I can’t say that I would want to live anywhere near St. Marie. Bet you didn’t find a Starbucks there. 🙂

  4. Thanks for the tour of small town USA! Looking forward to your next stop!

  5. rpward51 says:

    Wow, that St. Marie should have been named St. Strange!

  6. pmbweaver says:

    MT reminds me of TX. If you don’t have a truck, you stick out like a sore thumb.

    A great example of our tax dollars at work…built it; then close it.

    I wonder what type of jobs these people do. How close is the nearest town where they can find work? Very strange indeed.

  7. What a bizarre little town! It’s kind of the reverse of some now destitute cities like Detroit where only a few remain in certain neighborhoods that were emptied by the recession. Only these Montanan’s chose to move into a blighted, practically empty place!

  8. Jodee Gravel says:

    Hard not to compare the number of homeless with the number of homes that are peopleless. I hope someone smarter than me can put them together someday :-). I love that you went exploring where there was seemingly nothing to see – and found such a unique community for your efforts! I’m really loving your travels west!

  9. Sherry says:

    Sure hope the research guys paid some bucks for that facility. I agree with Jodee, houses that need owners and homeless folks sounds like a win/win. We noticed the loud truck thing in Montana too. Guess there are no inspections of mufflers. Safe travels on your way.

  10. Laurel says:

    I am always amazed in our travels to witness first-hand how many different ways there are to live a life. I find myself judging life in St. Marie as very sad — but then again, how do I really know? The “Welcome To St. Marie — Home Of The Adventurous” sign has a distinct air of hope about it.

  11. Pam says:

    Yes, but imagine how quiet! It would be hard to see so many neighboring houses in decay. I wonder why some haven’t been razed? I know out here you can have the fire department use structures condemned for practice drills.

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