Bozeman’s first high school, the Gallatin Valley High School, was built on West Main Street in 1902. Later known as Willson School, named for notable Bozeman architect Fred Fielding Willson, son of Lester S. Willson, the building still stands today and functions as administrative offices for the Bozeman School District.
In the early 20th century, over 17,000 acres (69 km2) of the Gallatin Valley were planted in edible peas harvested for both canning and seed. By the 1920s, canneries in the Bozeman area were major producers of canned peas, and at one point Bozeman produced approximately 75% of all seed peas in the United States. The area was once known as the “Sweet Pea capital of the nation” referencing the prolific edible pea crop. To promote the area and celebrate its prosperity, local business owners began a “Sweet Pea Carnival” that included a parade and queen contest. The annual event lasted from 1906 to 1916. Promoters used the inedible but fragrant and colorful sweet pea flower as an emblem of the celebration. In 1977 the “Sweet Pea” concept was revived as an arts festival rather than a harvest celebration, growing into a three-day event that is one of the largest festivals in Montana.
The first federal building and Post Office was built in 1915. Many years later, while empty, it was a film location, along with downtown Bozeman, in A River Runs Through It (1992) by Robert Redford, starring Brad Pitt. It is now used by HRDC, a community organization.
The Bridger Bowl Ski Area45 operates as a 501(c)(4) organization by the Bridger Bowl Association, and is located on the northeast face of the Bridger Mountains, utilizing state and federal land. Bridger Bowl was Bozeman’s first ski area and opened to the public in 1955. In 1973 news anchorman Chet Huntley created the Big Sky Ski Resort off Gallatin Canyon 40 miles (64 km) south of Bozeman. The resort has grown considerably since 1973 into a residential community and major winter tourist destination.
In 1986 the 60 acres (240,000 m2) site of the Idaho Pole Co. on Rouse Avenue, was designated a Superfund site and placed on the National Priorities List. Idaho Pole treated wood products with creosote and pentachlorophenol on the site between 1945 and 1997.
The Museum of the Rockies was created in 1957 as the gift from Butte physician Caroline McGill and is a part of Montana State University and an affiliate institution of the Smithsonian. It is Montana’s premier natural and cultural history museum and houses permanent exhibits on dinosaurs, geology and Montana history, as well as a planetarium and a living history farm. Paleontologist Jack Horner is the museum’s curator of palentology and brought national notice to the museum for his fossil discoveries in the 1980s.
Bozeman receives a steady influx of new residents and visitors in part due to its plentiful recreational activities such as fly fishing, hiking, whitewater kayaking, and mountain climbing. Additionally, Bozeman is a gateway community through which visitors pass on the way to Yellowstone National Park and its abundant wildlife and thermal features. The showcasing of spectacular scenery and the western way of life the area received from films set nearby, such as A River Runs Through It and The Horse Whisperer, have also served to draw people to the area.
Bozeman has experienced a healthy pace of growth. Over the past 40 years, it has grown from the 6th to the 4th largest city in the state. The area continually attracts new residents due to quality of life factors, scenery, and nearby recreation. In August 2010, Bozeman was selected by Outside as the best place to live in the west for skiing.
Growth in the Gallatin Valley prompted the Gallatin Airport Authority to authorize a major expansion of the Gallatin Field Airport with two new gates, an expanded passenger screening area and a third baggage carousel. Gallatin Field was renamed Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport.