National Geographic Traveler – Stars and cars in Fort Benton

posted in: Montana 0


In the summer of last year, when I was shooting for a story on the Missouri Breaks, I stayed in Fort Benton for a few days. Walking around this beautiful town that had seen its heyday as a trading post in the middle of the nineteenth century, I came across a small house that had a big American flag in its windows. This is what it looked like:

1206 Front Street, Fort Benton, Montana.

This house stayed on my mind as I wondered how I could make use of this unusual sight. The following evening I realized that the setting sun would illuminate the building across from it, an old brick edifice that was being used for storage, leading to an interesting reflection in the windows with the flag. I tried different angles and waited for something to happen on the street with the hope of getting a third layer into my picture. Passersby and cars went in an out of the frame, but none really seemed to make sense. Eventually, a silver-and-red pickup truck, another symbol of small-town America, slowly drove by. I waited for it to be at what I felt was the right place and got my picture.

Stars and cars in Fort Benton.

I'm happy to report the picture ran as a double-page spread in the November 2015 issue of National Geographic Traveler Magazine.

National Geographic Traveler, November 2015.

And yet, the story does not have a happy ending. I passed through Fort Benton again this September and of course looked at the place where I had taken the picture again. This is what the brick building looks like today:

Brick building in September of 2015.


I have just received some more info on the Fort Benton building. Sharalee Smith of the Fort Benton Restoration Committee kindly sent me this:

The building you are asking about was built in 1915 and known for a number of years as LaBarre’s Garage. It was sold sometime in the 1950’s and renamed Fort Benton Motor Company. The building was still known as Fort Benton Motor Co. at the time it was torn down.


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