Helena Builds Territorial Capitol Building
Courthouse served as Capitol X """ ' """ rlllT" '" ' -'Iji': . - j Courthouse Square about 1889. The clock tower and fourth-floor dormers were removed ucuause or admage in me eannquaxes. Moniana Historical Society photo) fcf jr-. - .' ; ft Courthouse Square today. Both the courthouse and the jail still are serving the county. (Staff photo by Gene Fischer) Having already achieved status as territorial capital and as a regional banking center, Helena in 1885 moved to solidify its position as the prime candidate for state capital with the construction of a substantial multipurpose courthouse. The galleried second floor rooms, now serving as courtrooms, were designed to provide space for the Territorial Legislature and Supreme Court, and theLegislature did meet in the building periodically until the Capitol was finished in 1901. In addition to housing the courts and offices of the county, rooms also were rented to the territorial auditor, and secretary as well as providing space for the first official governor's office. Further finishing of the interior and the addition of dormer windows in 1893 allowed the Montana Historical Society to use th attic for its expanding activities. The architectural firm of Hodgson, Wallingford and Stem of St. Paul, Minn., designed the three-story Romanesque building which was built at a cost of $200,000. Built atop several tunnels left from Helena's early mining era, the courthouse exhibits features originally introduced in Chicago in the 1870s by the widely known architect H.H. Richardson and popularized throughout the country. Locally quarried granite stone walls are treated as a series of continuous horizontal bands, differentiated from each other by the constasting Lake Superiorn brownstown used to highlight the entrances and windows. A sense of strength and stability is repeated in the great rounded archways conical towers. The solid construction saved the courthouse from destruction in the two earthquakes of 1935 which resulted in the removal of the clock-tower on the north side and rebuilding of the entire roof.