In 1980, The Gazette asked a group of architects and random laypeople what their opinions were on a number of buildings across Billings. The respondent were asked what they thought the most attractive and least attractive buildings were, with the First Northwestern Bank (later Norwest Bank and now Wells Fargo Plaza) being voted at the top of both lists. The building was completed in 1977, and was the tallest building in Montana until the Sheraton Hotel was built in 1980. A 1980 addition to Deaconess Hospital (known today as Billings Clinic) tied for the "least attractive" building with First Northwestern.
The people polled were also asked to rate a selection of buildings on a scale of one to five, with one being "tacky" and five being "trend setting." The then-incomplete Sheraton Hotel (now the Crowne Plaza, and soon to be a DoubleTree) received the highest score, at 3.43 out of five. The Fraser Towers apartment complex received the lowest rating, at 2.25.
The Billings building boom continued into the mid-1980s, when the First Interstate Center was completed, surpassing the Sheraton as the tallest building in Montana and signaling a drastic change in architectural style. Other skyscrapers and downtown high-rises were planned, but never built.
Here are some of the buildings rated in the survey, along with a selection of quotes about the state of Billings architecture in 1980.
The 1980 guide to Billings architecture
Sheraton Hotel (Crowne Plaza)
Eastern Montana College (MSUB) Liberal Arts Building
Castle Rock Middle School
St. Vincent Hospital addition
Security Federal Savings & Loan (Western Security Bank)
First Northwestern Bank (Wells Fargo Plaza)
James F. Battin Federal Building
First Federal Savings & Loan (Rocky Mountain Bank)