Treasures of a Brilliant Man
Charles Marion Russell’s studio, made of red cedar telephone poles, and his simple, two-story house are located at 400 13th Street North in Great Falls. These historic buildings are part of what makes up the CM Russell Museum.
In 1928, not long after Russell’s death, his wife, Nancy, sold their house to the city of Great Falls, along with two other lots for $20,000. The log cabin studio and its contents were given to the city as a $5,000 donation. In 1930, the Russell Memorial Committee re-opened his cabin studio as the “Russell Memorial.” Although it was now a tribute to Russell’s works, the house still belonged to the city of Great Falls. The Trigg family, long-time friends of the Russells, donated their family’s collection of Russell’s work to the Memorial in 1951. This would provide a permanent collection – the “Trigg-C.M. Russell Foundation, Inc.”
In 1953, the C.M. Russell Gallery, which had obtained the Trigg Gallery, opened with approximately 175 pieces on display. In 1960, the house was left vacated and deemed a fire hazard. Near Demolition, the Great Falls Garden Club picked up the project of re-establishing the house and made the decision to broaden the museum’s collection to include contemporary Western art.
The C.M. Russell Museum is one of four museums today that holds a large collection of Russell’s work. As part of the support for Western art and Charlie Russell, Western Art Week was started by Norma Ashby in 1969. The week-long event has continued to grow since its inaugural year and keeps the legacy of Charlie Russell and his namesake museum alive.