Montana State Capitol
The state capitol (1301 6th Ave.) was begun in 1899. This imposing structure, domed with a cupola of Butte copper, was enlarged in 1912 by the extensions containing the present legislative wings.
The statue on the dome commemorates an odd episode in Montana history. After the bruising fight for state capital between Helena and Anaconda, the Capitol Commission ran off with the books. When this statue arrived at the railroad station from a foundry in Ohio, no one knew who had ordered it, who had paid for it, or what it was meant for. The foundry’s records were shortly destroyed in a fire, leaving the mysterious statue no history and no future. The builders of the capitol needed statuary for the top of its dome, and the Goddess of Liberty found its way to the top.
Significant paintings and murals decorate the capitol. In the House Chamber hangs Lewis and Clark Meeting the Flathead Indians at Ross’s Hole by Charlie Russell, one of his largest and most acclaimed works. In the lobby of the House of Representatives, six paintings by E. S. Paxson detail the state’s history.
Free guided tours of the capitol are given on the hour (9 a.m.–3 p.m. Mon.–Sat., noon–4 p.m. Sun. May–Sept., 10 a.m.–2 p.m. Sat. only Oct.–Apr.) The capitol is also open for self-guided tours (8 a.m.–5 p.m. Mon.–Sat.). For information, contact the Montana Historical Society (406/444-2694, www.montanacapitol.com).
© W.C. McRae & Judy Jewell from Moon Montana, 7th Edition