Filed Under Helena

Unemployment Compensation Commission

Montana Capitol Campus Historic District

Politician John G. Winant wrote in 1936 that the Great Depression made Americans aware that there were no more frontiers. Individual initiative and enterprise could no longer guarantee financial security. The government subsequently established the unemployment system in 1937 to provide something more than private charity or emergency relief. The Montana Unemployment Compensation Commission expanded during the 1950s and focused on helping workers find employment and unemployment insurance. The federal government financed this building to house the commission in 1961. Architect Lewy Evans Jr. of the Billings firm of Evans, LaMont and Cole used the most recent structural innovations and engineering advances. The Modern style building, simple and “sculptural” in form, employs a steel frame clad in precast concrete panels and curtain walls with aluminum frames. Curtain walls are non-structural and lightweight, hung over load-bearing walls. Corrugated vertical aluminum louvers covering the south curtain wall move with the sun to reduce heat gain, a concept advanced for its time. The building boasted the nation’s largest clear-span structural floor with no interior supporting columns. Montana travertine graces the interior lobby and a colorful six-foot mosaic by Billings artist Robert C. Morrison represents the state’s most common trades of miner, carpenter, and farmer. Reorganization in the 1970s brought the commission under the umbrella of Labor and Industry. A west wing added in 1974 created space for the entire department. In the 1990s, the Department of Labor and Industry Building’s name changed to honor employee Walt Sullivan, who was killed on the job in 1989.

Images

Unemployment Compensation Commission Unemployment Compensation Commission. Front/side view of the building, facing southwest on Lockey Avenue on the grounds of the State Capitol complex situated just southeast of the Capitol building. Source: Montana State Historic Preservation Office Creator: Diana J. Painter Date: Jan. 2010
Unemployment Compensation Commission Unemployment Compensation Commission. Front view of the building, facing southeast on Lockey Avenue near the Capitol building situated behind the photographer on the State Capitol complex. Source: Montana State Historic Preservation Office Creator: Diana J. Painter Date: 2010
Unemployment Compensation Commission Unemployment Compensation Commission. Rear view of the building, facing north from Broadway Avenue near the employee lot. Source: Montana State Historic Preservation Office Creator: Diana J. Painter Date: 2010
Unemployment Compensation Commission Unemployment Compensation Commission. Rear/side view of the building, facing northwest near Broadway Avenue in the employee lot off of North Roberts Street. Source: Montana State Historic Preservation Office Creator: Diana J. Painter Date: 2010

Location

1315 East Lockey Avenue, Helena, Montana | Public

Metadata

The Montana National Register Sign Program, “Unemployment Compensation Commission,” Historic Montana, accessed February 4, 2023, https://historicmt.org/items/show/820.