The Gallatin County Free High School is 30,000 square feet of history that has floundered aimlessly since 1999. Also known as the East Willson School, it’s a building that is near and dear to the hearts of many Bozeman residents. A local effort to save it from the wrecking ball was successful in 1999, and over the past 15 years there have been many lookers, but no takers – until now: Bridger Builders of Bozeman, known primarily for their beautifully crafted single family residences, has undertaken the adaptive re-use of the East Willson. The Willson Residences, 18 small custom homes. Comma-Q leads the way . . .
The iconic (and chronically overlooked) Gallatin County High School was designed in 1902 by Helena architect C.S. Haire (also designed the Bozeman Carnegie Library and Taylor Hall). About 11 years later Bozeman resident Fred Willson designed the south addition; after its completion in 1914, the school featured a second floor auditorium and was effectively doubled in size. Although the building has been known by different names and occupied by different sets of users over its history, the East Willson School functioned as classrooms or school support space for more than 110 years. Hollywood movie star Gary Cooper graduated from Gallatin County High School in 1922.