Montana County Courthouses

Struggling to tame the wild land in which they settled, Montana’s early settlers worked to establish Euro-American concepts of governance in their growing communities. Montanans moved quickly after the creation of the 1889 Montana Constitution, passing county-wide bond measures financing the construction of courthouses that would both provide and celebrate law and order. Symbols of democratic ideals, the finished products were often the finest buildings in their communities, functioning as offices for law enforcement, government officials, and county services.

Showcasing their importance to the community, courthouses were frequently built in imposing Classical styles, richly adorned with stained glass, domed towers, and marble columns. The Deer Lodge County Courthouse in Anaconda finished in 1900 in the Neoclassical style, is made of dressed sandstone and crowned with an ornately decorated, two-tiered domed tower. The 1888 Jefferson County Courthouse in Boulder uses the Richardsonian Romanesque style to assert the frontier community’s expectations of prospering through the ages. The building’s asymmetrical design, octagonally-crowned tower, and rough-cut stone walls evoke medieval influences, emphasizing the frontier community’s permanence.

After 1910, as larger counties split and reorganized to create today’s fifty-six counties, communities with limited budgets struggled to build courthouses as grand as those constructed in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The Daniels County Courthouse, built in Scobey in 1913, was originally a saloon and brothel. The courthouse typifies the early days of Montana with its Western false-front façade and a second-floor balcony. Yet the courthouse still functions as the heart of its community and county, housing essential government offices and civil courts. Witnesses to the state’s rich history, courthouses remain the crown jewel of most Montana county seats, continuing to stand as symbols of justice and democracy.

Big Horn County Courthouse

In the midst of the Great Depression, the federal Works Progress Administration created jobs across the country in an effort to jumpstart the economy. From 1935 to 1937, the WPA spent $24.6 million in Montana alone, which was matched by $3.4 million…

Carbon County Courthouse

Butte architect P. J. Donahue drew the plans for the 1899 landmark after fire destroyed its predecessor. Situated at the busy northern end of the commercial district, the building today provides an excellent example of restrained, classically…

Cascade County Courthouse

Spirited revelry in the streets of Great Falls greeted news of the creation of Cascade County in 1887. Named county seat, Great Falls grew quickly, with county offices located in various downtown buildings. In 1891, voters approved the visionary…

Chouteau County Courthouse

Minneapolis architects Kees and Fisk drew the plans for this magnificent Queen Anne style courthouse, which opened in 1884. As the seat of one of Montana’s nine original counties, its grand appearance represents the early affluence of this “Chicago…

Deer Lodge County Courthouse

This valley known by Native Americans as “Lodge of the White Tailed Deer” officially became Deer Lodge County when this area was part of the Territory of Idaho. After the creation of the Territory of Montana in 1864, the first territorial legislature…

Daniels County Courthouse

The settlement of Old Scobey relocated here from the Poplar River flats to greet the approaching Great Northern Railway branch line in 1913. By the time the first train arrived on Thanksgiving Day, the two-story Commercial Hotel—today the south half…

Courthouse Historic District

Development of this district came well after Kalispell had become an established regional center. The Flathead County Courthouse, which serves as the district’s focal point, was built in 1903 and long presided in solitary splendor over undeveloped…

Gallatin County Courthouse

The stock market crash of 1929 plunged the nation into an era of depression, and Bozeman, like other American communities, faced severe financial hardships and resulting challenges. By 1931, Montana’s farming, ranching, mining, and lumber…

Granite County Courthouse

The first permanent home for Granite County offices was completed in 1913. Prominent Montana architects John Link and Charles Haire designed the building. Its cut stonework is, appropriately, made of Montana granite. Granite County commissioners paid…

Havre Post Office and Courthouse

Red brick, finely crafted stonework, and a colonnade reminiscent of a Greek temple brought an imposing federal symbol to Havre in the 1930s. Securing state and federal funds for this post office was an expression of optimism during economic…

Jefferson County Courthouse

In 1888, Jefferson County voters passed a $40,000 bond issue to build a permanent courthouse. Flourishing gold and silver mines and the advent of the railroad meant the county would see its population quadruple between 1870 and 1890, and there looked…

Lewis and Clark County Courthouse

Much Montana history unfolded within this magnificent landmark, which served as both territorial capitol (1887-1888) and state capitol (1889-1902). Here in 1889 officials received word of statehood, and three hours later J. K. Toole was sworn in as…

Lewistown Courthouse Historic District

In 1879, Metis—people of French and Chippewa-Cree descent—homesteaded in this area, near the army’s Camp Lewis. Many street names memorialize these settlers, who included Francis A. Janeaux and Paul Morase. But open range cattle ranching, nearby gold…

Original Madison County Courthouse

Madison County was one of the original nine counties created by the first territorial legislature in 1865. This building, constructed in 1866, served as the county courthouse during Virginia City’s stint as territorial capital (1865-1875). When the…

Missoula County Courthouse

The Neoclassical style sandstone Missoula County Courthouse was designed by prominent local architect A. J. Gibson, and erected 1908-1910. Inside the copper-domed clock tower hangs a two-ton bell, and a notable interior decoration is the series of…

Ravalli County Courthouse

Copper king Marcus Daly established local logging operations and platted the town of Hamilton in 1890 to fuel his Anaconda copper mining ventures. When Ravalli County was carved from Missoula County in 1893, Stevensville won designation as county…

Rosebud County Courthouse

Scandal and intrigue surrounded the construction of Rosebud County Courthouse in 1914. Rosebud County citizens recognized the need for a new courthouse when they passed a $125,000 bond issue in 1911 to fund the building. To design a suitable…

Silver Bow County Courthouse

Prestigious architects Link and Haire designed this magnificent four-story courthouse in the Beaux Arts style. This grandiloquent form introduced at Chicago’s 1893 Columbian Exposition was often utilized in American civic buildings. Offices within…

Teton County Courthouse

In 1906, Choteau’s newspaper, the Acantha, proudly celebrated the completion of the new courthouse. “This splendid edifice,” its editor predicted, “… will stand for years as a monument to the honor and integrity of all the people of the .” Built of…