Wouldn’t it be exciting to be able to book a guided nature hike, attend a lecture featuring American Prairie scientists, or check-in for an American Prairie photography workshop, all from one central location?
Well good news — American Prairie recently purchased the historic Power Mercantile Building in downtown Lewistown, Montana with the hope that it will eventually house all of these programs and more.
The new venue, called the National Discovery Center, will serve as a gateway to the prairie and a jumping-off point for visitors traveling to experience hiking, wildlife, camping, and other recreational opportunities. Visitors will learn about the natural wonders of the prairie ecosystem and the human and biological history of the Upper Missouri River Breaks region of Montana. The National Discovery Center also will offer cultural and educational exhibits, programming, activities for kids, and events.
“We have received a lot of support from local community members and look forward to creating an inviting, educational space that we believe will provide a lasting public benefit,” said Alison Fox, American Prairie President and CEO.
Fox said Lewistown was a natural choice for the location of the National Discovery Center for many reasons, including its proximity to the prairie and nearby amenities like hotels, restaurants, and a regional airport. Before choosing the Power Mercantile Building, American Prairie spent more than 18 months searching for the right spot and received input from local community members, city leaders, and other stakeholders before choosing this location.
The 13,000-square-foot Power Mercantile Building, also known as the Reid’s building, was constructed in 1901 and was one of the first stone buildings in the town. TC Power acquired this building to house his department store, and also owned the PN Ranch, which American Prairie purchased in 2016.
The hope is that the National Discovery Center, combined with additional efforts to construct an outdoor infrastructure in the area, will encourage increased visitation and responsible tourism to both the prairie and surrounding areas.
“We are excited to be growing our investment in the Lewistown community,” added Fox. “The Power Mercantile building has an incredibly rich history and we’re excited to be able to contribute to the revitalization happening in the downtown area.”
American Prairie hopes to renovate and open the National Discovery Center in the next few years, but the exact launch date depends on the results of a multi-year fundraising campaign that will help re-design the current building, among other initiatives. American Prairie hopes to further contribute economically to the area by housing part of its growing staff in the new Lewistown location.