Montana State Capital Campus Historic District

Montana’s governmental landscape is an evolving political and cultural expression with deep roots. The seeds of the capital city were planted with local gold discoveries in 1864. Helena became territorial capital in 1875. Upon statehood in 1889, the county courthouse became Montana’s first capitol. Voters chose Helena as permanent state capital in 1894. Efforts to build a grand capitol building began immediately. “Capitol Hill” was originally planned on the site of present-day Carroll College, but the owner wanted $10,000 for his land, and the new state lacked funds. East side booster Peter Winne offered to pay the state $4,000 to choose this site, knowing that it would spur expansion. The state took Winne’s offer. Fields surrounded the neighborhood when officials broke ground in 1899. From 1902 to 1920, smaller revival style buildings, including the 1909 Capitol wings, illustrate minimal expansion. Larger “stripped classical” style buildings underscore Depression-era growth. The Late Modern architectural styles to the east illustrate a new emphasis on campus planning. Today, the 1902 Montana State Capitol is the centerpiece of the sixty-acre campus, whose grounds and buildings mirror the state’s development. Monuments include granite tablets, living trees, and metal sculptures commemorating groups such as the Montana Veterans and the Montana National Guard. Individual tributes include the 1905 equestrian statue of Irish hero Thomas Francis Meagher and a memorial to Governor Donald G. Nutter, killed in a plane crash in 1962. The campus remains the heart of state government, as well as a testament to Montana’s history and people.

Images

Catalog #945-370

Catalog #945-370

Governor Tim Babcock in vehicle, and Ed Towe, owner of the 1909 model Ford. 1967 | Source: Montana Historical Society Research Center Photograph Archives, Helena MT | Creator: Photographer unidentified View File Details Page

Catalog #954-276

Catalog #954-276

Helena, MT, panorama, March 20, 1939. [part 3 - right side - of three part panorama.] | Source: Montana Historical Society Research Center Photograph Archives, Helena MT | Creator: L.H. Jorud; photographer View File Details Page

PAc 2013-50 Helena-Capitol-aerial

PAc 2013-50 Helena-Capitol-aerial

Aerial view of the Capitol and surrounding area from the north. [circa 1955] | Source: Montana Historical Society Research Center Photograph Archives, Helena MT | Creator: Photographer unidentified View File Details Page

PAc 2013-50 Helena-Capitol-Helena and Mt. Helena from Capitol

PAc 2013-50 Helena-Capitol-Helena and Mt. Helena from Capitol

Helena and Mt. Helena from Capitol looking west. [circa 1949] | Source: Montana Historical Society Research Center Photograph Archives, Helena MT | Creator: Photographer unidentified View File Details Page

MHS Collection - color transparency overview L42-30

MHS Collection - color transparency overview L42-30

Overview, looking south on Roberts Street, from top of Highway Department building. Montana Historical Society in foreground, Mitchell and Cogswell buildings in background. ca. 1960 | Source: Montana Historical Society Research Center Photograph Archives Helena MT | Creator: [probably Highway Department Staff Photographer] View File Details Page

Street Address:

1301 East Sixth Avenue, Helena, Montana [map]

Cite this Page:

The Montana National Register Sign Program, “Montana State Capital Campus Historic District,” Explore Big – Montana's Historic Places, accessed March 25, 2017, http://explorebig.org/items/show/2178.

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