When the Sundance Kid robbed the local bank and escaped, Red Lodge, Montana, was officially on the map. Over a hundred years later, when Bart and Betsy Butzer decided to steal away and build a second home, they also chose the historic Red Lodge area of Carbon County, Montana. Bart, a retired Target Company executive, was fresh out of college when he first encountered the region, after accepting a position as manager of the Billings store, a little over an hour away. The Butzers eventually settled in Minnesota, but the Red Lodge area—referred to as the western gateway of the Rockies—became a favorite destination for family vacations. 

Former visitors and residents of the area were a colorful bunch—Lewis and Clark, Buffalo Bill Cody, Calamity Jane, and the Sundance Kid—who once robbed the local bank and escaped! Ernest Hemingway also lived in Red Lodge for a time, purportedly using the old coal booming town as the prototype for his main character’s hometown in For Whom the Bell Tolls. Red Lodge sits in the Meeteetsee Valley, which in the Shoshone language translates as, “meeting place.” It was a natural choice and the perfect location to build a dream ranch where the Butzers and their three sons, daughters-in-law, and grandchildren could converge for family gatherings, replete with a multitude of outdoor activities including hiking, fishing, skiing, and snowboarding. Beyond the recreational amenities, the Butzers also wanted a place where they could display their many objects.

The specific site the couple chose to build on is a “bench” beneath the Beartooth Mountains. Windswept, and without a water supply for many decades, the area was at one time considered completely inhospitable, and used only for cattle grazing. Today, with an available water supply, including Rock Creek Stream that flows through the valley below, the pristine plateau is not only a choice setting and serene retreat for harried city folks, but is frequented by a picturesque herd of majestic elk from nearby Mount Maurice. 

The team efforts of Porth Architects, Kibler and Kirch Interior Design, and Timberline Builders of Red Lodge were enlisted to create and manifest the Butzer’s vision. Andrew Porth designed an iconic tent-shaped structure with a number of floor to ceiling windows that capitalize on the spectacular 360-degree views. The generous use of reclaimed lumber and ironwork along with Corten steel roofs—on both the residence and the two-stall barn—keeps a casual and unpretentious western feel, while holding up to the dramatic Montana climate.

Porth sourced old corral boards from Montana Reclaimed Lumber in Gallatin Gateway, repurposing them for both interior and exterior walls and siding. Stonework within and without, including the towering hearths, is Kootenai Ledge, a red and gray weathered fieldstone from northwestern Montana. Chestnut wood  floors from Appalachia, plus baseboards, window trim, wainscoting and doors of honey-hued knotty alder, contribute richness and warmth to balance the stone and steel elements. 

With regard to appointments, Rosina Kastelitz of Kibler and Kirch first sourced beautiful rugs for the home, and, guiding on their colors and patterns, created a unique personality and ambiance for each carefully defined space. 

The Butzers wanted a chef’s kitchen, but without the industrial feel. In response, appliances were fronted in muted green, custom designed cabinetry that blends beautifully with the knotty alder wainscoting of the kitchen island. The island, complete with Viking cooktop, features  Nordic black granite counter top with a “river-washed” finish. The ceiling is stamped, tin-plated steel from WF Norman, made in the company’s turn of the century factory in Nevada, Missouri.

The master bedroom is actually an authentic old cabin discovered by architect Andrew Porth. It was dismantled, transported from its original location and ingeniously reassembled as the master suite. The handsome leather headboard is from Old Hickory Tannery. A custom crafted bookcase at the foot of the bed conceals a flat screen television. The array of decorative pillows is from Bausman and Company. The room’s pièce de résistance is a glittering crystal chandelier for a touch of unabashed prairie elegance.

The master bath continues the “homesteader cabin” feel but with the added luxury of a vanity topped in white Carrera marble, and a deep, copper soaking tub. The custom made beaded mirror with concealed medicine cabinet is by expert craftsman Lee Dungan. A slate tile floor adds contrast in texture and color.

The charming powder room has a copper basin sink beneath a mirror framed in elk sheds. Wallpaper was made from maps of the surrounding country, sourced from Tom Kohley of Ranch Maps in Red Lodge. The maps were stained with tea and placed with directional and geographic accuracy on the four powder room walls.

Photography by Roger Wade. 

(Originally published in the October 2014 issue of Cowgirl Magazine).