Western Life Insurance Company Helena Branch Office

Small in scale but highly distinctive, this colorful Modern style office building is an eye-catching anchor at one of Helena’s busiest intersections. When it opened in 1962, it was one of the nation’s most up-to-date office facilities. Western Life, founded in 1910 as Montana Life Insurance, grew by leaps and bounds and by 1938, the company served eight states. In 1957, Western Life affiliated with the St. Paul Fire and Marine Insurance Company; two years later Western Life moved with 120 employees to St. Paul, Minnesota. Helena architect Grant Crossman of Morrison-Maierle and Associates designed this building as the new branch office. Its curtain wall construction and bold new styling set a high standard for commercial architecture in Helena. The building is a great ambassador of the Modern style and post-World War II construction techniques. New methods of manufacturing glass, better sealants and insulation, widespread use of air conditioning, and the ready availability of aluminum made curtain wall construction feasible. Separation of the window wall from the structural system as employed here allowed use of lightweight prefabricated aluminum panels, glass walls, and mosaic tiles. Aluminum framing and window walls brought abundant natural lighting inside and allowed colorful embellishments like the blue metal panels and ceramic tiles. The multi-leveled building features an asymmetrical T-shape and varied surface textures. Yellow and brown Norman brick, polished pink granite cladding, and a decorative concrete block screen at the upper entry add to the visual cornucopia. The company logo and motto, “As Enduring as the Mountains,” survives to recall the building’s original owner.



600 North Park Avenue, Helena, Montana ~ Private