HELENA — On Monday July 4th, the Montana Capitol celebrated its 120th birthday.
After Montana joined the union in 1889 and the town of Helena became the official capital in 1894, focus turned to constructing a seat for the politicians and lawmakers of the state.
After deciding on a tract of land that looks over the valley, groundbreaking commenced on September 10, 1896, followed by the cornerstone installation in 1899.
The design of the building consisted of an ornate dome and stately columns, parallel to designs of the Greeks and Romans, in a trend known as “American Renaissance.” The lavish interior decoration representative of the Gilded Age lined the halls and walls with paintings, stained glass, murals, and sculptures.
Once completed, a dedication ceremony was held on July 4th, 1902, to celebrate its completion.
Soon after the dedication, it became clear that the building was not actually large enough for all members of the three branches of government.
“Montana is growing so the legislature has to grow and the state capitol has to grow and they just decided more room was needed,” says Deb Mitchell, Program Specialist for Outreach and Interpretation at the Montana Historical Society.
In 1909 the legislature approved expansion of east and west wings, which were completed in 1912.
120 years later and people from all over still come to admire the craftsmanship and history of the Montana State Capitol.
“Oh, I think it's like the mainstay of, tells the story, like I said, of Montana. We have international visitors that come and they are just in awe of the building. They thought how did this building get in the middle of Montana, you know. Everybody is surprised about the architecture and the painting and the way the building looks and is maintained,” says Mitchell.
If you’d like to do a self-guided tour of the capitol building, materials are available at the security desk on the main level.