Billings is the largest city in the U.S. state of Montana, located in the south-central portion of the state. Billings is rapidly growing; as of the 2000 census, the city had a total population of 89,847 and a 2007 city estimate indicates the city's population has grown to 103,206. Billings is the county seat of Yellowstone CountyGR6 and is the principal city of the Billings Metropolitan Statistical Area which encompasses all of both Carbon and Yellowstone counties and Billings. In terms of population, it is the largest metropolitan area in Montana.
It is nicknamed the Magic City because of its rapid growth from its founding as a railroad town in 1882. Billings is named for Frederick H. Billings, president of the Northern Pacific Railroad. Due to Billings' status as the largest city in a 500 mile radius (south-central and eastern Montana and northern Wyoming), it serves as a shopping and accommodation center for area residents and highway travelers. The city's proximity to Yellowstone National Park, Pompey's Pillar, and the area where the Battle of the Little Bighorn was fought also draws tourists, especially during the summer months.
Most of Billings is located in the Yellowstone Valley, carved out by the Yellowstone River. Over 10 million years ago, this valley was underwater with the tops of the Rims being a prehistoric beach. It is not unusual to find fossilized fish in the area.
Some of pictographs in the Pictograph Cave 6 miles south of Billings are 2,100 years old. The Crow Indians frequented this area from about the year 1700.
In 1806, William Clark traveled through the region on the Lewis and Clark Expedition. He inscribed his name on Pompey's Pillar, a rock formation 25 miles northeast of Billings, on July 25, 1806. Clark wrote that he climbed the sandstone pillar and "had a most extensive view in every direction on the Northerly Side of the river". Clark named the place "Pompys Tower" in honor of a young Shoshone boy he had nicknamed "Pompy." The boy's mother was Sacagawea, who had helped guide the Lewis and Clark expedition and had acted as an interpreter. The name of the formation was changed by 1814) to the current title. Clark's inscription is the only remaining physical evidence found along the route that was followed by the expedition.
Billings was founded in 1877 and established in 1882 in the Montana Territory near the already-existing town of Coulson. Coulson had been situated on the Yellowstone River, which made it ideal for the commerce that Steamboats brought up the river. However, when the Montana & Minnesota Land Company oversaw the development of potential railroad land, they ignored Coulson, and platted the new town of Billings several miles to the West. When the Northern Pacific Railroad was built, Coulson died as Billings flourished. The land that was once the town of Coulson is now Coulson Park. Northern Pacific Railroad President Frederick Billings, along with other executives of the railroad, bought land in the Yellowstone Valley, then later sold it back to his own railroad. This practice was both legal and common at the time. A structure known as "The Castle" was erected emulating European design with its crow-step gable construction.
As Billings grew from the tracks of the Northern Pacific Railroad, it appeared the only development would be to the south. On March 15, 1882, Frederick Billings and other Northern Pacific officials formed the Montana & Minnesota Land & Improvement Co., which platted and promoted the sale of land in what would become Billings. Two main commercial streets were built along the railroad tracks and were named Montana and Minnesota avenues after the land company. After the company was formed, the city grew quickly and earned the nickname, "The Magic City" because the city appeared to grow like magic. By mid-June that year, Billings had grown to 79 tent shelters and 81 houses. 75 more homes were being built as well. The buildings were hastily built along the south of the tracks. By the end of 1883, Billings had 400 buildings and 1,500 people. The commercial district had matured to a nine-block area. Still most homes were located in the southside with many different classes calling Billings home. South Park was also built in the new city. In had been rendered in the Billings' original outline. Billings first swimming pool was built in 1914. Mansions were also beginning to be constructed by early Billings pioneers. Two of the pioneers were the brothers Peter and Christian Yegen, two Swiss immigrants.
Billings suffered from a major flood in 1937 . After World War II, Billings boomed into a major financial, medical and cultural center in the region. In the 1960s, Billings surpassed Great Falls as Montana's largest city. In the 1970s, Billings suffered a short decline in population due to the oil crisis. The population quickly rebounded in the early 1980s and has never declined since. Billings was affected by the 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens in May; the city received about an inch of ash on the ground. Billings received the All-America City Award in 1992.
In 1993, Billings made national news with the "Not in Our Town" phenomenon. Hate activists and Neo-Nazis were starting to congregate in town with KKK flyers being distributed, the Jewish cemetery being vandalized, the home of a Native American family being painted with swastikas, and a brick being thrown through a window of a child who was displaying a Menorah for Hanukkah. The city of Billings acted against the growing environment of hate by standing strong and bold against its pernicious nememses, refusing to let the rye of its righteousness be trampled upon. Religious groups sponsored marches and candlelight vigils. The Billings Gazette printed out paper Menorahs. Over 10,000 homes and businesses hung them in their windows, even at the risk of bricks being thrown through them. The residents of Billings eventually drove out the hate activists peacefully using these methods, earning the nickname "The Paradigm City".
Today Billings continues to be the financial, medical, agricultural, and cultural center for the Northern Rockies/Great Plains and continues to be the "Star of the Big Sky Country." In 2002 Skypoint was completed. In 2005, the people of Billings elected former Police Chief Ron Tussing as Mayor. He was sworn in January 9, 2006. He is a member of the Mayors Against Illegal Guns Coalition, a bi-partisan group with a stated goal of "making the public safer by getting illegal guns off the streets." The Coalition is co-chaired by Boston Mayor Thomas Menino and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
Billings is located at GR1, with two thirds of the city in the Yellowstone Valley, the city being divided into the Valley and the Heights by the Rims, a long cliff, also called the Rimrocks. The Yellowstone River runs through the City. According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 106.0 km² (41.0 mi²). 104.7 km² (40.9 mi²) of it is land and 0.3 km² (0.1 mi²) of it (0.33%) is water.(45.786553, -108.537139)
Geographically, Billings has one of the largest trade areas in the United States, serving more than 350,000 people. In addition, Billings' location makes it desirable for companies' regional headquarters. Some of the services in Billings include agriculture, medical services, oil refining, and tourism. Agricultural items produced in and around Billings are sugar beets, corn, wheat, and cattle. Companies located in Billings include KOA, First Interstate Bank, DA Davidson and Co., Big Sky Airlines, Hennessy's (defunct), and CTA Architects Engineers. Call centers for Global Crossing (currently in bankruptcy) and Wells Fargo Bank are also in Billings. Eide Bailly has a branch in Billings, and this office is the largest accounting firm in Montana. Wild West Rentals, and Free Rental Finder serves the rental housing market, with Professional Management, Rainbow Property Management, Metro Property Management, and HDA Management.
There are several Higher Level Learning facilities in Billings. These Include states schools (Montana State University - Billings and The College of Technology) and private schools (Rocky Mountain College and Yellowstone Baptist College).
Montana State University - Billings was originally named Eastern Montana Normal School when it was founded and then named Eastern Montana College before being renamed to its present name when the Montana State University System reorganized in 1994. The university was established in 1927 and offers Associate/Bachelor/Master degrees and certificates in various education fields. MSU-Billings is known as having a strong Education and Rehabilitation majors. Today, there are hundreds of degrees to choose from. Currently around 4,600 students attend MSU-Billings.
The College of Technology (West campus) was originally another associate-level community college. This college recently merged with the main campus. In the past few years, enrollment has risen to over 1,000 full time students (accounting for nearly 1/5 of the student body). Projections with grant improvements and workforce needs foresee a 2,000 student increase in the near future.
Billings also offers two private schools. Rocky Mountain College is Montana's oldest and first institution of higher learning, founded in 1878. It is a private comprehensive college offering over 40 liberal arts and professionally oriented majors. Rocky Mountain College is often simply called "Rocky" or "RMC" for short. Rocky is proud of its standing record of being ranked by U.S. News & World Report as one of the top 10 in quality and a “best value” among comprehensive colleges in the West. Along with its quality Rocky also continues to maintain a 99% graduate placement rate. Yellowstone Baptist College also offers a limited curriculum.
The Moss Mansion Historic House Museum is located in Billings on 914 Division St. It is a turn of the century, red-stoned mansion built by P.B. Moss, who moved to Billings from Paris, Missouri. It was inhabited solely by Mr. and Mrs. Moss, their six children, and 3 servants until 1984 . The house was built for a cost of $105,000, when most homes averaged about $3000. It has 28 rooms, and is 60 feet square. It rises 45 feet into the air.
The Mansion is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Visitors can still see the original furniture, draperies, carpets and fixtures during a one-hour guided tour. Seasonal exhibits are also featured. The Moss Mansion was designed by the famous New York Architect Henry Hardenbergh, who also designed the original Waldorf-Astoria, Plaza Hotels, Williard Hotel, and Copely Hotel. The Moss Mansion is operated by the Billings Preservation Society, Inc., a non-profit organization.
Downtown attractions of Billings include The Western Heritage Center and the Billings Depot. The Western Heritage Center is a regional museum located in the Historic District in the downtown. This museum used to be the old Parmly Billings Library. Built in 1913, the library turned museum houses a collection of artifacts and history of the Yellowstone River Valley. The Western Heritage Center is affiliated with the Smithsonian Institute. The Billings Depot is a historic train depot. The depot used to be the passenger terminal for the Northern Pacific Railroad, Great Northern and Chicago, Burlingtion and Quincy. The last regular Amtrak train departed in the spring of 1979. Today, the depot is being renovated to host event such as wedding receptions, small concerts, and art shows.
Skypoint is a tent-like structure over the intersection 2nd Avenue and Broadway and is also located in downtown Billings. Its highest point is 73 feet tall. There are three "sails" that make up the structure. The largest sail can move to let the sun through or to cover the intersection if it rains. This is part of the plan to revitalize downtown Billings and attract more people to downtown. Skypoint was completed in 2002 and was originally named the "Defining Element" until it got its current name in a naming contest. It was built as a new icon for the city of Billings and to hold events such as the Strawberry Festival, the Christmas Stroll, and other events.
ZooMontana is a 70 acre wildlife park located in Billings USA and is Montana's only zoo and botanical park. The zoo was first planned in the early 1980s. It is home to both native and non-native animals from around the world. The zoo gets about 70,000 visitors annually and is one of the regions most popular tourist attractions.
ZooMontana is an Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) accredited wildlife park & zoo. The zoo hosts animals not only native to the Rockies but also species from Asia and Europe. Among the animals featured is a Siberian Tiger, Eastern Gray Wolves, North American River Otters, Bighorn Sheep, Red Pandas, Great Horned Owls, Bald Eagles, Sika Deer, Wyoming Toads, Wolverines, Waterfowls, and Lesser Spot-Nosed Guenon. The animals live in state-of-the-art enclosures designed to imitate their natural habitats.
Attractions located near Billings include Yellowstone National Park, the Western Romance Company, the Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument, The Pictograph Cave National Historic Landmark, Pompey's Pillar National Monument (where Clark signed his name), and Chief Plenty Coups State Park.
The Western Romance Company is located 15 miles east of Billings in Huntley, Montana. The Company offers authentic cowboy entertainment such as a tour bus holdup and surprise by cowboy bus bandits, a covered wagon train ride across Montana prairie to Happy Pappy's Chuckwagon Camp where the movies Lonesome Dove and Far and Away were filmed, catered cowboy meals, western music artists and entertainment, cowboy concerts on the range, Pompey's Pillars trips and more.
The site of the Battle of the Little Bighorn is also located only 65 miles southeast of Billings. Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument preserves the site of the June 26, 1876 Battle of the Little Bighorn, near Crow Agency, Montana, in the United States. It also serves as a memorial to those who fought in the battle: George Armstrong Custer's 7th Cavalry and a combined Lakota-Northern Cheyenne force. Custer National Cemetery, on the battlefield, is part of the national monument. The site of a related military action led by Marcus Reno and Frederick Benteen is also part of the national monument, but is about 3 miles (5 km) southeast of the Little Bighorn battlefield.
The Pictograph Cave National Historic Landmark is a 93 acre area of three caves (Pictograph, Middle, and Ghost caves) located 6 miles south of Billings. There are over 30,000 artifacts which have been identified. Paintings known as pictographs are still visible in Pictograph Cave, which is the largest of the three caves. Some of the pictographs 00 years old. They are paintings of animals, warriors, and even rifles that document the story of the Native Americans of the area for thousands of years.