With a Capitol “M” – The Montana State Capitol Building

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In what will probably be my last post about Montana, I visited the Montana State Capitol which was walking distance from where I was staying in Helena.

Montana State Capitol in Helena

To be honest, I don’t have much to say about the Montana State Capitol. I didn’t go inside because it was a weekend and it was closed. So instead we’ll just talk about the neoclassical architecture style.

Montana State Capitol - Helena

Built in 1905, this is the second design of the building. The first design created by a man named George R. Mann was marred by accusations of being a money scamming operation. His design was thrown out, and a second commission was established. And that building is what you see here, though if you’re really curious, you can see what Mann’s design looked like if you go see the Arkansas State Capitol building (which—shocker—it looks very similar).

Montana State Capitol - Helena

The winning design by Bell and Kent once again took design cues from Greek architecture (the pillars, the dome, the balconies). And to make sure that no one missed the Greek styling cues, on top of the dome sits a statue called “Lady Liberty”.

Montana State Capitol - Helena

The statue has a fun backstory. Apparently, it was ordered during the first design of the capitol building, then forgotten. When it arrived a few years later, there was no record of ordering it, no name, proper attribution, anything. So they called it “Lady Liberty” and it was shrouded in mystery until 2006 when a woman in Pennsylvania was cleaning out her grandfather’s possessions and learned about the statue.

At ground level sits a statue of former Governor Thomas Francis Meagher. His service in the Civil War earned him the Governor’s seat of the then-territory of Montana. Before that, he was sentenced to a penal colony in Australia as an Irish nationalist from which he escaped and came to the US.

Montana State Capitol - Helena

Montana State Capitol at Night

One of the problems I had taking pictures of the capitol building during the day was the sun. Helena sits at 46.589° N (Chicago is 41.878° N, and Portland, Maine is 43.659° N). As the winter approaches the days get incredibly short and the sun stays further and further to the south. The building faces north, meaning that to get the full-frontal shots above, I was looking into the sun. As you can see in the pictures above, the sky blew out in many of my pictures.

So I went back at night. Besides, there’s something special about buildings at night. Lighting a building isn’t just about shining a light on it so that people can see it. There’s an art to it, emphasizing details and highlighting features. I’ve noted this before with the Massachusetts State House in Boston and the Baha’i Temple in Chicago. While the Montana State Capitol isn’t the most foreboding building I’ve ever seen at night, it’s still work a look.

Darting around outside a government building with a camera at night made me feel like I was in a John Grisham novel.

Montana State Capitol at Night - Helena

Montana State Capitol at Night - Helena

Montana State Capitol at Night - Helena

Fire Tower at Night

Since I was out and about, I decided to revisit the Fire Tower at night. I’d heard that it lit up, and figured it’d be cool.

But it wasn’t.

At the ground level, it was mostly shadows because of the way it was lit. Perhaps at a distance it would have been a shining beacon over the city, but for now it was a disappointment.

And that was before the sprinklers turned on while I was taking pictures.


I live in Seattle now. I have a studio apartment with my cat and a job. Next week, I’ll probably do a photo tour of downtown Seattle because this weekend, I’m joining up with a photography Meetup group and taking pictures of Pioneer Square, Pike’s Place Market, etc. All the good tourist stuff.

I also have a Flickr account now. As of this moment, it’s a few pictures of cities (quite a few reposts from here) and some of my cat. As I’m not traveling as much as other travel bloggers, it’s sometimes hard to justify putting my photos up here because I can’t always spin out a narrative. Yes, it’s my site, but I also have editorial standards. So that’s where I’ll be adding more of my photos, if you’re so inclined.

Speaking of other bloggers, this blog is part of the Faraway Files and The Weekly Postcard. Click the icons, see what other people are doing with their days. It’s all great fun. 

Suitcases and Sandcastles
Two Traveling Texans

Until next week, au revior. 

Continued Reading:


  1. The State Capitol building looks impressive. I would love to visit all the state capitols at some point. Congrats on the move to Seattle. That’s a great city so looking forward to reading more about it. Thanks for sharing on #TheWeeklyPostcard

  2. Blogs don’t have to be far flung destinations, thoughtful narrative and great pictures with a side of local history is great. Love really drilling down on detail and getting to know places. Good luck to you and your cat!

  3. We love visiting Capital buildings, even if just for the architecture. It’s a shame you couldn’t go inside. Also love the story about Governor Thomas Francis Meagher! That’s the sort of history you usually only get from going to these places. Thanks for sharing on #TheWeeklyPostcard.

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