County settles on final location for hall of fame proposal

The round barn north of Twin Bridges sits in the shadow of the Tobacco Root Mountains. The barn and 30-acres surrounding it were recently put forth as a donation by Tony and Amie James for Madison County's proposal for the Montana Cowboy Hall of Fame and Western Heritage Center. Photo by Kenton Rowe.

Madison County is putting a new proposal forward as its final bid to the Montana Cowboy Hall of Fame and Western Heritage Center and local officials are optimistic they’ve got a winner.

Tony and Amie James, new owners of what is locally known as the Hamilton/Siedensticker Ranch in Twin Bridges are donating a barn and 30 acres to be the location of the new hall of fame and heritage center.

But they’re not donating just any barn. They are putting up the famous round barn north of Twin Bridges, which more than 100 years ago was the home of Spokane – Montana’s only Kentucky Derby winner.

The generous donation puts Madison County in a prime position to be selected as the site of the hall of fame and heritage center, said Sam Korsmoe, executive director of the Madison County Economic Development Council.

The selection process for the new hall of fame site began in September and has progressed to the point that Madison County is up against four other communities in the state in competing to be the new home for the facility. The other communities still in the process are Big Sky, Livingston, Big Timber and Wolf Point. Miles City was in the final six, but pulled its proposal from consideration, said Aaron Lyles, director of finance for the hall of fame.

Initially, Madison County had three sites in their proposal – the Ennis rodeo grounds, the Madison Valley History Association land
west of Ennis and the Montana Children’s Center in Twin Bridges, Korsmoe said.

The rodeo grounds and history association were attractive offers, but involved a long-term lease, he said.

The Montana Children’s Center in Twin Bridges was for sale, with a portion slated as a donation by owner Leslie Adams, he said.

“That was a fabulous gesture,” Korsmoe said.

It wasn’t until after Madison County made the final cut that the proposal with the James family became a factor. And once it was finalized, it became the obvious choice for Madison County’s final proposal, he said.

Both the round barn and Spokane were in the first class of inductees into the Montana Cowboy Hall of Fame in 2008.

The barn was built in 1882 by mining magnate and racehorse enthusiast Noah Armstrong, according to history of the barn on the hall of fame website. Armstrong had a passion for racehorses and dreamed of winning the Kentucky Derby.

In 1886, Armstrong’s mare Interpose gave birth to a chestnut foal that would be named Spokane. In 1889, this little horse beat the much larger Proctor Knot to win the Kentucky Derby. The victory was a huge source of pride for Montana, which wouldn’t officially become a state until six months later.

To present that kind of history as a gift to the hall of fame is exciting, Korsmoe said.

Along with the gift of land and the barn, Madison County’s proposal will also include an obligation to raise $1 million toward renovating the round barn to a point it can be used for general public use.

The complete package should be very competitive and hard to pass up, he said.

All through the process, the hall of fame selection committee has said they want a facility that not only puts people in touch with the past, but also the western culture and heritage of Montana. They anticipate a facility that can host educational events, conferences and ranching and agriculture demonstrations.

Madison County’s proposal will put the new facility in the heart of ranching country on a working cattle ranch, Korsmoe said.

From the James family’s point of view, the donation to the hall of fame seemed like a great use for the historic barn, said Ben
Pierce, who is chief operating officer for the James’ ranch operation.

“This just seemed like a perfect fit,” Pierce said. “I know they feel like they would like to do something beneficial to the community and this might be something that would benefit Twin Bridges in a positive way over time”

The hall of fame selection committee doesn’t have a firm timeline on when the final proposals need to be worked through and submitted, Lyles said. The main idea is to allow the five finalists enough time to develop a plan to put their best foot forward.

Once everyone has their final proposal worked out, each community will fill out a memorandum of understanding with the hall of fame, he said. This MOU will outline each detail of the various proposals and allow the selection committee the ability to weigh each proposal equally.

Korsmoe implores anyone with ideas about any part of Madison County’s proposal, from marketing to fundraising, to call him at 682-5923. He is also looking for letters of support for the proposal to be submitted by the end of January. For more information give him a call, or email him at

2 Responses to County settles on final location for hall of fame proposal

  1. Larry Best says:

    What a generous and ingenious offer by the James family. This barn is an iconic landmark of the valley and to see its’ future as the museum in to be applauded. Well done to all who have worked to make this happen.

  2. Patty Lutton says:

    I enjoyed the history of the barn! I live near Kentucky and it is interesting to know that people from all over the U.S. have trained horses for the Kentucky Derby.

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