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Restoring The Babcock Theater


February 25, 2011


While the Montana winter has seemed to be unusually long we have continued to make internal progress in the renovation of the 104 year old Babcock Building.  In November work was completed on the retail space at 120 N. Broadway and Cline Fine Arts opened for business.  The interior "Arcade" that provides access to the apartments, theater and retail spaces has been continually improved and was packed with artists and visitors during the December 3, 2010 downtown ArtWalk.  The fourteen 2nd floor apartments are fully occupied.  Construction and rehabilitation continues on other parts of the building.

 Mike Mathew & Goeff Cline       ArtWalk Fun     Kim & Don Olsen with our super      Gang at Dec.  ArtWalk   

                                       Ice Sculptor/Electrician Kris Archer



The Babcock Theatre


Although the winter months are darker months for the Babcock stage we were pleased with the appearance of comedian Paula Poundstone in January and expect a full house for Academy and Grammy awared winning Ryan Bingham and The Dead Horses in just a few days.  March is packed with events as promoters  become familiar with the theater.  The single greatest recent improvement for the theater is the completion of green room/dressing rooms downstairs off the stage.  Only those who have in the past used the Babcock "dressing facilities" (a term used loosely) will truly appreciate the availability of an office area, restrooms, showers, kitchen area, washer and dryer, and...of course...dressing spaces.

   Two Happy Fans with Paula             Dressing Room Kitchen       Wells Fargo Banker       Mike Checking the

               Poundstone                                                                        Tom Potter on Site              Seating Area


Retail and Arcade Area


Cline Fine Arts joined our current retailers, Montague's Jewelers, Rock Creek Coffee Roasters and zPizza, with a mid-November opening.  The opening of Jimmy John's Sandwiches at 122 N. Broadway has been pushed back to later this spring but work has been done to restore the original tin ceiling, prepare walls and install a new stairway for basement access.  The design has been approved by the National Register of Historic Places and downtowners are looking forward to its completion.

On May 6th Victoria Franck Wetsch will have the Grand Opening of a new art gallery at 118 N. Broadway.  Her gallery will feature local and regional artists and will be a participant in downtown activities and year-around ArtWalks.    A replica of an earlier tin ceiling has been installed and wood floors are being restored.

The Babcock owners (and their bankers) are pleased that we have only one retail space left to lease.  Located mid-block at 114 N. Broadway this unit has 2220 square feet of main floor space and a 1500 square foot mezzanine.

Victoria in Her Space           New Tin Ceiling 


Completion of the Facade Restoration


The very few above 50 degree days allowed us to begin demolition of small areas of the 2nd Avenue ground floor facade.  The serious work of completing the facade restoration from Rock Creek Roasters on Broadway to the Babcock Apartments entrance on 2nd Avenue North will be completed this summer.  It will mean real changes to the appearances of the coffee shop and Montague's Jewelers and the 2nd Avenue arched Arcade entrance will match the entry at 120 N. Broadway. 

Logan removing stone facade    Preserving for Recycling


The transformation of the Babcock continues and each improvement helps our city and downtown.



Babcock Building Restoration                                  October 2010

October 1, 2010 marked the 2nd year of new ownership of this historic building. We have yet to have a celebration but that does not mean that things have not been accomplished during that period of time well worth celebrating.  We have come from having a seldom used, small stage, theatrical venue to the point where we regularly have 2 to 3 events staged in a week.  All 14 second story apartments are full. 

10-2008 Removing Metal   We currently have 3 great retail tenants (Rock Creek Roasters, Montague's Jewelers and zPizza and in November will celebrate the Broadway opening of Cline Fine Art and a Jimmy John's Sandwich Shop is scheduled to be in business in early January.

The Babcock Building has recently been accepted on the National Register of Historic Places.  The construction portion of the project has been separated into 15 designated areas, i.e. re-roof, expand stage, restore facade.  However, the overall project touches three specific parts of the building.


The Babcock Theatre 

Soon after acquiring the Babcock work was begun to demolish a 2 story space constructed over the back portion of the stage.  The original wood floors were refinished and numerous upgrades to the antiquated electrical system were made.   Visually one can appreciate the new red roof, back stage curtain and light and sound system but out of sight are the enormous changes in heating and cooling, plumbing upgrades and a whole house fire sprinkler system.  New environmentally friendly, handicapped accessible restrooms off the Arcade on the main floor of the building have taken pressure off of the original small restrooms on the theater mezzanine level.  Best of all, the venue is being used by performers ranging from heavy rock bands to one-act operas.  The 760 seat Babcock Theatre is a mid-sized venue available to local and national promoters as well as non-profit organizations.                 

Marquee Announcing Renovations

The Apartments

In 2008 the second floor had five occupied rental spaces.  At this time all 14 apartments are leased and we have a waiting list of those interested in the building.  A new roof, electrical upgrades, massive plumbing repairs, and ceiling and floor restorations were necessary to bring most of these unoccupied units back to habitable condition.  There are studio, one and two bedroom residences and many retain the charm of their vaudeville era roots.


Retail and Arcade Area

In this building which covers one-quarter block in the center of downtown Billings we inherited two main floor retail tenants, Rock Creek Coffee Roasters and Montague's Jewelers.  There were five empty storefronts on Broadway.  Following the removal of the 50s era blue metal facade we began restoration of the 2nd story brick and followed with rehabilitation to return as closely as possible to the original 1907 storefront look.  The process is nearing completion on Broadway and will continue in the spring on 2nd Avenue.  An entire new roof over this space was imperative and heating, cooling, electrical and plumbing work continues on an almost daily basis.  The result is the signing of three new lessees on Broadway which will help bring more vitality to the downtown.

Kris, Brandon and crew with Broadway storefronts 

Two areas of improvement related to both theater and retail are the efforts to reestablish the interior "Arcade" on the  main floor and construction of a theater green room and dressing rooms in the basement.  The original theater entrance was from Broadway through the Arcade.  The 2nd Avenue theater entrance will remain but the new floor lighted, arched ceilinged space relieves lobby congestion, provides a gathering space and concession area, and leads to new restrooms.  We are underway with the creation of these dressings rooms as well as a laundry area and showers for theater performers and their staffs.

The transformation of the Babcock continues and each improvement helps our city and our downtown!


 Arcade work continuing, artist Rachel Ritter on Broadway & 2nd Avenue, plus events at the Babcock Theatre