The University of Montana Historic District

An 1881 act of Congress granted the Territory of Montana seventy-two sections of land to use in funding a university. When the Montana legislature finally created the University of Montana in 1893, the Missoula community expressed its support by refurbishing a condemned schoolhouse as an interim campus. Fifty students enrolled in the first classes in 1895. From their temporary quarters, University President Oscar Craig and Professor Frederick Scheuch designed a campus to be built on forty donated acres at the base of Mount Sentinel. With revenue from the 1881 land grant, the first campus buildings were designed by Missoula architect A. J. Gibson and constructed between 1897 and 1908. The new campus opened in 1899, housed in Main and Science Halls. After World War I, a second campus master plan by Helena architect George Carsley and his New York mentor Cass Gilbert allowed for the University's orderly expansion. Eight buildings following the Carsley-Gilbert plan enlarged the campus between 1918 and 1927. Federal grants financed five additional buildings from 1935 to 1939, forming a stylistic transition to the modern campus. While the campus now accommodates over 10,000 students, the University of Montana proudly reveals its evolution through architectural diversity, displaying Montana's changing architectural tastes and the work of its best-known designers.

Alumni Center

Architects designing campus buildings between 1935 and 1939 were faced with a dilemma. Should they choose the Renaissance Revival style of most previous campus buildings or should they opt for the modern designs prevailing throughout the nation? In a…

Botany Laboratory and Greenhouse

This 1938 addition to the Renaissance Revival style Botany Building (formerly Natural Science) offers an excellent example of the importance of Public Works Administration funds during the Depression Era to the expansion of the University of Montana.…

Central Heating Plant

Red-brown brick, cream terra cotta, and huge Tudor style windows belie the utilitarian function of this lofty building. Missoula architects Ole Bakke and Clarence Forbis ingeniously applied the Renaissance Revival style of other contemporary campus…

Chemistry-Pharmacy Building

A Public Works Administration loan and bonds funded the construction of this facility, completed in 1939. Architects R. C. Hugenin of Butte and Norman DeKay of Helena designed the distinctive building amidst criticism over the unusual mixing of…

Corbin Hall

The construction of this women’s residence hall, completed in 1927, marks the end of an era. It was the last building erected in strict accordance with the Carsley-Gilbert campus master plan and placed within the intended U-shaped dormitory…

Forestry Building

Completion of this facility in 1922 provided the School of Forestry a permanent home. In the Renaissance Revival style specified by Carsley-Gilbert’s master plan, Missoula architect Ole Bakke designed a distinctive building that vividly proclaims its…

Journalism Building

Dean Arthur Stone pitched four tents near the Oval in 1914, thereby founding the University’s School of Journalism. An old bicycle shed and later World War I army barracks served as quarters for this discipline, then considered “non-essential.” After…

Men's Gymnasium

Helena architect George Carsley and New York architect Cass Gilbert designed the campus master plan implemented between 1918 and 1927. Although Carsley continued as consultant on other buildings erected under the plan, this 1922 gymnasium is the only…

Natural Science Building

The first building added to the campus after 1908 was this facility, which housed the most modern equipment for all branches of life science research, including a stereopticon and motion picture apparatus. Begun in 1917 and completed in 1919, it was…

New Hall

The placement of this women’s residence hall prohibited further development of a women’s U-shaped dormitory complex as outlined by the Carsley-Gilbert campus master plan of the previous decade. Architects H. E. Kirkemo of Missoula and J. Van…

North Hall

Constructed in 1922 following the 1918 Carsley-Gilbert campus master plan, this women’s residence was intended to be part of two U-shaped clusters of men’s and women’s dormitories. Its identical contemporary counterpart, Elrod Hall, and Corbin Hall…

The Oval

Professor Frederick Scheuch and first university President Oscar Craig created the original campus master plan in 1895. The plan specified that the entrances of all immediate and future campus buildings were to face the center of a large oval. Ovals…

Prescott House

Prominent state legislator and county commissioner Charles R. Prescott homesteaded here in 1891, planting a vast orchard of plum, cherry, pear, and apple trees. In 1898, Prescott replaced his original log dwelling with this beautiful Queen Anne style…

South Hall

The first men’s residence on campus renamed Elrod Hall, opened in 1923 with seventy student rooms. Like its near-twin Brantly Hall, the facility was originally intended to be part of two U-shaped residential complexes. The Helena architectural firm…

Student Union

Missoula architect C. J. Forbis ushered in a new campus building phase in 1935 with the construction of this student union. The building’s placement and modern Art Deco façade broke ranks with the Renaissance Revival style called for in the old…

University Hall

Fronting the Oval at the heart of the campus, the university’s oldest standing building, also known as Main Hall, proudly represents the birth of this noble institution. Celebrated Missoula architect A. J. Gibson designed the Richardsonian Romanesque…

University Library 1908-1923

This enduring landmark was the fifth and final contribution to the campus by renowned Missoula architect A. J. Gibson. A work of exquisite craftsmanship and the university’s only example of Neo-classical architecture, the dramatic classical portico…

University Library 1922-1974

Of the eight campus buildings constructed on the Carsley-Gilbert master plan, the library appropriately best expresses the Renaissance Revival style. Billings architects McIver and Cohagen designed this architectural gem with its Spanish tile roof,…

Woman's Art Club Building

Architects designing campus buildings between 1935 and 1939 were faced with a dilemma. Should they choose the Renaissance Revival style of most previous campus buildings or opt for the modern designs prevailing throughout the nation? In a compromise,…

Women's Hall

Construction of this women’s residence, dedicated in 1903, attests to Montana’s early commitment to coeducation. Architect A. J. Gibson chose the simple, elegant Second Renaissance Revival style for his third campus building. Deviating from the…