Montana Historical Society

Big Sky. Big Land. Big History.

The places on the cards in the Montana in the National Register playing card deck reflect not only the breadth of our historic properties geographically, but also the range of property types represented in the National Register across Montana.  From the ancient First Peoples Buffalo Jump National Historic Landmark near Ulm, to the Streamline Moderne First National Bank of Ekalaka, these places convey the stories of traditional lifeways, cultural contact, settlement, travel and development in Montana history. They embody social patterns, industry, political and conservation history, education, recreation, as well as significant architectural expressions.

To accomplish the difficult task of choosing only one property to represent each county, we strove to identify and represent various important themes in Montana archaeology, history, and architecture.  Then we scoured our files for graphically compelling images, travelled over 1500 miles to take some photographs, and called on our friends to provide us with just the right shot.  Some counties in Montana have only a few properties listed in the National Register making our task easier (or harder?), while others have literally hundreds to choose from – all significant locally, statewide, or nationally.  We hope you enjoy the properties we selected and learn more about them in our interactive story map

Inevitably, the question of matching the counties with card suits and values arose.  Why is Butte-Anaconda Historic District (Silver Bow County) the Ace of Spades and Yucca Theatre in Hysham (Treasure County) the 7 of Clubs?  Hoping again to be as equitable as possible, the cards are arranged and printed in order by the Montana county license plate number (1-56), running sequentially through the standard playing card company print layout for manufacturing cards.  This layout goes from spades (Ace through King; 1-13) to diamonds (Ace through King; 14-26) to clubs (King through Ace; 27-39) and then hearts (King through Ace; 40-52). Finally, the four “Jokers” (ie special wild cards) represent Nos 53-56 on the print sheet (A-D).  Thus, the suit and card number in the Montana in the National Register playing card deck in no way implies a relative value of the property’s significance.  Indeed, each of these properties, and each of Montana’s more than 1120 National Register-listed properties and districts are worthy of our preservation and celebration!