Overlooking Helena from the northeast is Carroll College, a private Catholic college with a student body of 1,400. Carroll stands on 63 acres atop a bluff still known as Capitol Hill. The site was offered for the state capitol in 1895, but the landowner wanted $7,000 for the real estate, and the frugal Capitol Commission went elsewhere.
Given all the beautiful architecture in Helena, it is ironic that the city’s most distinctive building is the Civic Center (corner of Neill and Fuller), built in 1921 as the Masonic Algeria Shrine Temple. This exercise in high camp is a Moorish revival edifice with a 175-foot minaret, onion dome, and intricately modeled exterior brickwork. It now houses Helena’s municipal offices and a performance hall.
Just east of downtown is the new Great Northern Town Center, a new development on 11 acres of land that was until recently unused rail yards. The development has several significant public buildings, including a new federal courthouse, plus a hotel, several restaurants, shops, and a carousel. As a modern commercial district, the Great Northern Town Center harmonizes nicely with Helena’s classic Western architecture.
© W.C. McRae & Judy Jewell from Moon Montana, 7th Edition