Montana State Capitol Building Dome - Helena, MT
Posted by: Groundspeak Premium Member T0SHEA
N 46° 35.156 W 112° 01.106
12T E 421977 N 5159655
Quick Description: Montana's first and only real capitol building, the state truly outdid itself when they built this building.
Location: Montana, United States
Date Posted: 7/11/2018 3:28:50 PM
Waymark Code: WMYQGY
Published By: Groundspeak Premium Member monkeys4ever
Views: 7

Long Description:
When we visited the capitol it was late in the day and everyone had gone home. Fortunately for the avid Waymarker, they had left a door unlocked - we won't say which one. We stealthily entered through the unlocked door to find ourselves alone in the building, save for a few of the cleaning staff, all on the ground floor. Avoiding the cleaners we went about our business, snapping shots to our heart's content. The capitol building may be an impressive edifice on the outside, but it is a true work of art inside. Filled with marble, tile, intricate woodwork, gold gilt, murals, stained glass, statuary and memorials, it offers a new and beautiful vista around each corner.

When we arrived at the third floor under the capitol's dome it (luckily) occurred to us that this might be a perfect "Whispering Gallery". We were alone, with no others around to make the slightest sound, so we raised our vocal orifice upward and whispered a few words! Faith and Begorrah - we actually heard our words echoed back to us!!! Very Impressive, indeed! We're very thankful that someone here was a bit forgetful in not locking all the doors, but hope that it doesn't happen too often.

We've been fortunate to tour more than one capitol building and must say that the dome of the Montana State Capitol Building is the nicest, best decorated of the lot that we've seen to date. It is an excellent centerpiece for the building, the rest of which is nearly as impressive (see the photo gallery below).

When on May 26th, 1864, Montana became a new territory its temporary capitol became Bannack, a small isolated log, brick, and wood frame gold mining camp. Today a ghost town and a National Historic Landmark, Bannack soon ceded its position as capitol to Virginia City, an equally isolated wooden gold mining camp. Virginia City, the scene of the richest placer gold strike in the Rocky Mountains had, by 1865, most of Montana's population and so was named the territorial capitol. However, as was always the case, new gold strikes caused the miners to move on, this time to rich new diggings at Last Chance Gulch at Helena. The population of Virginia City shrank as that of Helena grew. As a result the territorial capitol was moved from Virginia City to Helena in 1875. Virginia City survives as a near ghost town and a National Historic Landmark District.

On November 8, 1889 the dreams of many Montanans were fulfilled when Montana was proclaimed a state by President Benjamin Harrison. The (temporary) capitol was still Helena at that time, but the citizenry was promised that in the general election of 1892 the question of where the permanent state capitol should be would be put to a vote. When 1892 rolled around there were seven cities competing for a place on the ballot, Helena, Deer Lodge, Butte, Bozeman, Great Falls, Boulder and Anaconda - Helena and Anaconda advanced. A bitter fight ensued between Marcus Daly, one of the three "Copper Kings" of Butte, essentially the "King" of Anaconda, and the citizens of Helena. It was not only a "bitter" fight, but a "dirty" one as well, votes reportedly being bought at $5 to $6 each.

Needless to say, Helena won the popular vote, though by a slim margin, to become the permanent Capitol of Montana. Helena, of course, had no capitol building, but did have a very nice courthouse, constructed in 1885-86. It had served as the territorial capitol and would serve as the state capitol until the completion of the capitol building in 1902.

When it came time to build the new state of Montana a fancy new capitol building a commission was assembled to set the wheels in motion. The plan they returned proved to be simply too costly for a state as young as Montana and the initial plans, which called for a $500,000 building, were scrapped. To add insult to injury it seems that the members of the commission also planned to skim a few dollars off the top for themselves, creating a scandal which resulted in all the original plans and documents being hastily disposed of.

A second commission was raised and began anew. Meanwhile, the legislature authorized a $350,000 bond issue, secured by the 182,000 acres of land granted to Montana by the federal government at statehood. Soon acceptable plans were available for a building to fill the hole already dug in anticipation of the construction of the initially proposed building. The cornerstone was laid in 1899 and the Charles E. Bell & John H. Kent designed capitol building was dedicated in 1902.

Montana State Capitol Building The Capitol building's neo-classical appearance has origins in a late 19th century movement in American architecture that called itself the "American Renaissance". The Capitol's symmetry, its monumental proportions and its smooth surfaces are features generally associated with the movement's neo-classical style and show the influence of the Rhode Island and Minnesota Capitol buildings, both considered among the movement's most important structures.

The Capitol was built in two phases. The original building was begun in 1899 and completed in 1902. It was 260' x 150', 90' high at the wings, 160' high at the top of the dome and constructed of Montana sandstone. Matching east and west wings built of locally cut granite were added in 1909, expanding the building to 464' in length. The wings complement the appearance of the original building. The Capitol is compactly massed and generally rectangular in shape, consisting of five connected blocks; the four flanking blocks and their connecting sections are four stories tall; the central block is five stories tall and topped by a square platform that is framed by pediments and capped with a copper dome.

A broad sandstone portico is located at the second level of the central block of the building, over the front entrance. It is approached by a 35' wide granite stairway with ornamented light standards. The portico has five fluted 25' high ionic columns. The columns support an entablature with a frieze upon which is carved "MONTANA". The entablature is surmounted by four large consoles. Between the consoles are three decorative panels; on the central panel is a bas relief "M" set against a bas relief background of two crossed torches and a garland wreath. On the left and right panels, also in bas relief, are the years "1889 and 1899", respectively, representing the year Montana achieved statehood, and the year construction of the Capitol building began. The consoles reach to the fourth story and provide a base for a paneled pedestal that is flanked by two giant consoles which in turn are flanked by two ornamented urns.
From the NRHP Nomination Form

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Estimated Distance: 50 to 60 feet

Other Website: [Web Link]

Photography Prohibited?: no

Secret Message:
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Whispering Gallery Website: Not listed

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Rock Chalk visited Montana State Capitol Building Dome - Helena, MT 9/15/2017 Rock Chalk visited it