Get ready for the return of the Main Street benches

Deb Hill
Friday, June 24, 2022
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Lewistown Art Center Director Mary Baumstark takes a break on one of the colorful Main Street benches near the Art Center in 2019. The benches, removed for the reconstruction of Main Street sidewalks, will be reinstalled soon. News-Argus File Photo

After two years in storage, the Main Street benches are finally making their return.

Along with the coordinating garbage can screens and bike racks, the benches were removed for the Montana Department of Transportation’s Main Street improvement project. That project included pouring new sidewalks on both sides of Main Street. The City of Lewistown removed the street furniture so it would not be damaged during the sidewalk reconstruction.

Thursday a spokesperson for MDT confirmed the Main Street project is finished, and the benches and other furniture can be replaced.

Lewistown City Manager Holly Phelps said she will have City workers reinstall everything, but it could take up to a month given their current workload.

“We’ve just been waiting patiently for MDT to close out the project. Now that they have, we’ll reinstall the benches, but they will be closer to the curb than they were before,” Phelps told the News-Argus. 

Apparently the former position of the benches, backing up to storefronts, is deemed an ADA violation as it puts obstacles in the path of travel. MDT can only allow items installed in the few feet of sidewalk not far from the curb, so that’s where the benches, bike racks and garbage can sleeves will be located.

The street furniture was created in 2009, when the prototypes were built, according to the website EastMont Productions. The project included the benches (with designs pulled from architectural elements used in downtown historic buildings), bike racks and garbage can sleeves with wheat designs. 

Artist Carol Poppenga created the design concepts. Fabricated by Jeff Martin and Warden Bourne from steel provided by Pacific Steel and Recycling and lazer cut at HCR, the entire project was collaboration of Central Montana artists. 

Funding for the prototypes came from an opportunity grant from the Montana Arts Council, along with matching local funds. Eventually 14 sets of benches, bike racks and garbage can covers were built with funding from the Lewistown Rotary Club and a Community Transportation Enhancement Program grant. 

The 14 sets, originally painted matte black, were installed along Lewistown’s Main Street in the winter of 2009-2010. In 2015 the Arts and Entertainment District board had some of the benches painted by Courtesy Motors in primary colors of red, blue and yellow.