FORT BENTON - The historic Sullivan Building in Fort Benton was largely known for supplying goods to homesteaders in the early 1900s but with renovations underway, the building will soon have new life.
The building was originally erected by Joseph Sullivan back in 1910. Joseph at the time was a known saddle maker in the community, so he used the building to supply goods to homesteaders from 1910 to 1926.
Construction began in 1910 for a 50-foot by the 50-foot reinforced concrete warehouse. The owner, famous for “Sullivan Saddles” branched out into agricultural implements catering to the influx of “homesteaders.”
When completed, the Sullivan Warehouse façade was painted with the name of the Proprietor, the business, and the full variety of equipment and hardware that could be purchased therein:
New technology also tamped down profits such as the now ubiquitous automobile and tractor began to populate the landscape. The drought of the 1920s proved too much, farmers walked away from their land and all debts associated therewith. In 1926 the business ceased operations with all inventory and the Sullivan Warehouse turned over to The Stockman’s National Bank (the Banque Club Restaurant today).
In short order, the inventory was auctioned, and the Sullivan Warehouse was sold to Chouteau County for a maintenance shop.
Chouteau County abandoned the Sullivan Warehouse in the 1950s for new structures built on St. Charles street. The Sullivan Warehouse remained empty until July 17, 1963, when Richard and Joyce Cassutt, doing business as D&J Implement purchased it for $3,500.00.
The Sullivan Warehouse returned to its Farm Implement roots, housing J.I. Case parts, and equipment. Outside the front door stood at this time, a large cottonwood tree from which the cabs from CASE 1200 tractors hung so the tractors cleared the overhead door for access to the repair shop.
The Sullivan Warehouse proved inadequate for the next generation of CASE tractors, which brought about the erection of the adjacent yellow building for new shop space in 1973. From the sales office, left window, Richard Cassutt bathed Chouteau County in “Flambeau Red” CASE equipment.
As of 2018, the Sullivan Warehouse property has remained in the Cassutt family in the care of the current owners, Michael and Kelly Cassutt. Both are grateful to the City of Fort Benton and for the TIFD board’s grant program for the opportunity to renovate and repaint the façade:
"This has been a part of our family for almost 60 years, we inherited the building, and I just thought it would be cool to fix it up and have it ready for another family to come into Fort Benton and build a business and raise their family like it was available for us," Kelly Cassutt stated.
Some of the new additions to the building will consist of:
- New 200 amp, 3 Phase electrical service New energy efficient thermal pane insulated windows
- New ADA-compliant restrooms New energy-efficient LED light fixtures
- New stair access to second floor-2 sets New boiler heating system, 5 zone, 328,000 BTU hot water.
- Newly painted historical Main Street façade
- New Main Street and Rear Alley security lighting fixtures on photocell
- New main building entrance vestibule for multi-tenant access
- New A/C unit in office area
"Our intention was to get it cleaned up and sell it, and then we decided to fix it up and get it back active in the community, so that started a renovation process, that when you get into a 120-year-old building, all sorts of skeletons fall out of the closet, and we spent a year renovating the building, bringing new service, heat, electrical, and lights, and structure to the building to put it in the position that it can be a multi-tenant building to keep the space small enough that people can afford to lease them instead of trying to buy or lease a great big building where they can't really use the whole thing," Michael Cassutt said.
The Sullivan Building is located on the corner of Main Street and 15th Street. You can also find an old block and tackle that was found on the second floor of the building, and donated by the Cassutts to the Museum of the Upper Missouri.