Corner of Ninth and Palmer has long been home to a schoolhouse

Amorette Allison
Star History Columnist

Laura Brown Zook was the first librarian in Miles City and was also the superintendent of schools for Custer County.

Zook wrote a short history of schools in the very early days of Miles City and made mention of the bell on top of the 1st Ward School House, later Washington School.

The bell came from a wrecked steamboat and was saved particularly to be used as a school bell on Miles City’s first formal school house. It took several years for the city to get around to building the school, but it had a bell.

Before the 1st Ward School House was constructed, schools were held in private homes, churches, and wherever space could be found. The schedule was erratic as well, depending on the weather, if a school teacher was available and if parents didn’t need the children at home to work.

The 2nd Ward School House came a few years later and was built on the site of what is now Lincoln School. 

Two of Miles City’s best-known architects designed these two buildings.

Byron Vreeland, Miles City’s first architect, designed the first building and Brynjulf Rivenes, later a prominent name in Miles City design, was responsible for the second building. With additions, his building still serves as Washington Middle School.