Great Falls Central High School

Construction of this impressive public school, designed by local architect William White, began in 1893. That year saw an economic downturn that cost a third of Montanans their jobs and caused half of the state’s banks to close. The Panic of 1893 delayed completion of the school, but dedication ceremonies finally took place November 1, 1896, with an address by Great Falls founder Paris Gibson. Total school district enrollment at that time stood at 1,185. The substantial Romanesque-inspired architecture reflects the community’s commitment to the intellectual development of its youth. Walls of native sandstone rest on a foundation sometimes over five feet thick and sixteen feet deep. Recessed doorways and windows contribute to its massive appearance. Removal in 1916 of a tall square clock tower, which rose above the central turret, and removal in 1977 of a 1913 brick addition have been the only substantial exterior changes. Cast-iron radiators, ornate cast-brass hardware, golden oak woodwork, and slate blackboards provided students with well-appointed surroundings. Academic courses such as Latin, physics, geometry, and civil government were tempered by music, drawing and other classes in the arts to encourage well-rounded learning opportunities. When the city built a new high school in 1930, Central High became Paris Gibson Junior High School, renamed in memory of the town’s founder. In 1977, this architectural treasure became Paris Gibson Square and now houses Paris Gibson Square Museum of Art.

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1400 1st Avenue North, Great Falls, Montana ~ Private