Montana Veterans and Pioneers Memorial Building
The desire to memorialize the contributions of Montana pioneers and veterans and the need for a state museum converged in 1941. That year, veterans groups, the Sons and Daughters of Montana Pioneers, and the Montana Pioneers joined together to promote construction of this building. The Sons and Daughters of Montana Pioneers purchased the site, and veterans groups contributed $48,000 toward the project. Together they lobbied the legislature to earmark money for a combined memorial, museum, and historical library. World War II delayed the project, but after the war, Governor John Bonner pushed through an additional $350,000 appropriation for the building. The groups held an architectural competition, and several Montana firms submitted plans. When the veterans and pioneers voted on the designs by secret ballot at separate conventions, the design of Great Falls architect Angus McIver emerged as the clear winner. The plan featured the sleek lines and balanced asymmetry that characterizes modern architecture at its best. Actually two separate buildings, the striking bronze-trimmed entrance creates a seamless connection between the one-story, windowless museum decorated on the exterior with tile, and the three-story building to the north, whose horizontal ribbons of windows provide the primary ornamentation. After several delays, the building was finally completed in 1953 at a cost of $638,000. The Montana Historical Society soon filled the galleries with exhibits, including a permanent display of Charles M. Russell paintings and sculpture. The state funded building additions in 1970 and 1986 to accommodate the Society’s growing staff and collections.