Montana State Capitol Campus

Montana’s governmental landscape is an evolving political and cultural expression with deep roots. The seeds of the capital city were planted with local gold discoveries in 1864. Helena became territorial capital in 1875. Upon statehood in 1889, the county courthouse became Montana’s first capitol. Voters chose Helena as permanent state capital in 1894. Efforts to build a grand capitol building began immediately. “Capitol Hill” was originally planned on the site of present-day Carroll College, but the owner wanted $10,000 for his land, and the new state lacked funds. East side booster Peter Winne offered to pay the state $4,000 to choose this site, knowing that it would spur expansion. The state took Winne’s offer. Fields surrounded the neighborhood when officials broke ground in 1899. From 1902 to 1920, smaller revival style buildings, including the 1909 Capitol wings, illustrate minimal expansion. Larger “stripped classical” style buildings underscore Depression-era growth. The Late Modern architectural styles to the east illustrate a new emphasis on campus planning. Today, the 1902 Montana State Capitol is the centerpiece of the sixty-acre campus, whose grounds and buildings mirror the state’s development. Monuments include granite tablets, living trees, and metal sculptures commemorating groups such as the Montana Veterans and the Montana National Guard. Individual tributes include the 1905 equestrian statue of Irish hero Thomas Francis Meagher and a memorial to Governor Donald G. Nutter, killed in a plane crash in 1962. The campus remains the heart of state government, as well as a testament to Montana’s history and people.

Montana State Capitol Building

The gentle rise overlooking the Helena Valley enhances the stately character of the "People’s House." It is Montana’s grandest public space and a stunning example of high style public architecture. Iowa architects Charles Bell and John Kent…

Montana Statue

The statue atop the Capitol’s grand copper dome was a century-long mystery. No one knew who commissioned her or where she came from. She arrived at the Helena depot on the heels of a scandal that led to the disbanding of the first Capitol Site…

Boiler Plant

The 1895 legislative act that allowed construction of Montana’s state house included provisions for heating the building. Capitol Commissioners decided a separate heating plant would be required. Built in 1901, the first plant included a brick…

Livestock Building

Concerns about communicable diseases and unsanitary slaughterhouse conditions prompted the creation of the Livestock Sanitary Board in 1907. Originally housed in the new State Capitol, its duties quickly expanded and the need for laboratory and…

Legislative Restaurant/Capitol Annex

During the first decade of statehood legislators met in downtown Helena where lawmakers enjoyed a variety of options for “lunch arrangements.” When lawmakers transitioned into the new Capitol in 1902, downtown Helena was a mile away. A small…

Board of Health Building

Established by the state legislature in 1901, Montana’s Board of Health was originally housed in two small offices in the capitol building. As the state devoted more attention to public health during the Progressive Era, the Board’s responsibilities…

Mitchell Building

Throughout the first half of the twentieth century, state government grew to meet the increasing demands of Montana’s citizenry. In 1945—following a hiatus wrought by the Great Depression and World War II—the legislature established a Montana Postwar…

Montana Highway Department Building

Montana’s original Highway Department building reflects the ascendancy of the automobile in twentieth-century America. As drivers began lobbying for good roads, state government responded, forming the Montana Highway Commission in 1913. Five years…

Cogswell Building

Following World War II, Montana’s growing state agencies desperately needed all types of space. Consequently, in 1946 the Montana State Postwar Planning and Construction Commission recommended building a laboratory where all testing for state…

Executive Mansion

Since its completion in 1959, the Executive Residence has not only served as home for Montana’s first families, but also played an important part in the functioning of state government. It is the second such structure to fill that role. Initially,…

Justice Building and Montana State Library

The 1982 Justice Building and Montana State Library, designed by Page-Werner and Partners of Great Falls, was the last building constructed under the ambitious 1972 Capitol Campus Master Plan. Designed to house the Supreme Court, Attorney General’s…

SOCIAL and REHABILITATION SERVICES DEPARTMENT BUILDING

After the federal government began to provide money to address widespread poverty during the Great Depression, Montana established the Department of Public Welfare, which supervised all forms of public assistance. In 1937, that department set up…

Fish and Game Department

In 1865, Montana’s territorial legislature passed its first conservation law, limiting the capture of trout to rod or pole. By 1901, Montana had eight deputy game wardens, which grew to twenty-four by 1917. Hunting and angling became increasingly…