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Creating a Mythic Past: Spanish-style Architecture in Montana

by Hipolito Rafael Chacon

From Montana The Magazine of Western History, 51 (Autumn 2001), 46-60; this article is presented courtesy of the Montana Historical Society. All rights reserved, © 2001.

Montana has the peculiar distinction of a Spanish name and motto when these lands were neither explored nor colonized by Spain. Deriving from the Spanish word montana, the name for the newly organized territory was proposed in 1863 by Ohio Congressman James M. Ashley, and the following year the territorial legislature approved Montana’s official motto, Oro y Plata, meaning gold and silver.1 Over the years, these official titles have given rise to a false Pavilion at Butte's Columbia Gardensbut romantic myth of Spanish roots, and, indeed, driving across the state today, one might be fooled into thinking that these lands were once a part of the Spanish empire given the preponderance of Spanish-style architecture. But in fact, the pervasiveness of this architectural style in Montana and nationwide can be explained by Americans’ fascination with Spain that began in the mid-nineteenth century and gave rise to Spanish architectural styles that remained in vogue throughout the country well into the twentieth century.

    A survey of Montana buildings built between the 1880s and World War II reveals a rich mixture of Spanish architecture, primarily in the Moorish and Mission styles. Contrary to traditional notions of western architecture as rustic, behind the times, or anachronistic, the prevalence of Spanish-style architecture in Montana shows that architects, patrons, and builders in the young state participated fully in this national, indeed international, trend. The quality and variety of such buildings-from courthouses, hospitals, schools, churches, and railroad depots to private homes, commercial blocks, and modest gas stations-indicate that Montanans were not only familiar with these up-to-date styles but also very fond of them. This unexpected trend represents one of the state’s most distinctive architectural legacies.

    The Moorish style was the first Spanish architectural style employed in Montana.2 Although rarely associated with Spain today, the Moorish style, one of the most popular architectural fashions of the late nineteenth century, was inspired by Americans’ fascination with Islamic culture as depicted in literature. Authors of popular novels often portrayed Spanish culture and the country’s Islamic past as mysterious and decadent, especially after the publication of Washington Irving’s Tales from the Alhambra in 1832.3

    The Moorish style is characterized by animated and colorful exteriors with decorative brickwork, pointed-arch ogival windows and doorways, arcades or colonnades with horseshoe arches on stone columns, rooflines with minaret like towers, and onion domes and turrets, sometimes covered in copper sheeting.4 Glazed tiles in geometric patterns, ceilings embellished with polychromatic plaster cornices, and walls stenciled with vegetal patterns typically decorate interiors. The overall effect dazzles the viewer with complex rooflines and varied wall surfaces on the exterior and a multiplicity of pattern and texture on the interior.

    Architects borrowed decorative elements from Islamic buildings in the southern Mediterranean and North Africa, such as the Alhambra Palace in Granada, Spain, and the Great Mosque in Cordoba, combining these elements to create lively facades and interiors for otherwise conventional buildings. Moorish details blended easily with elements of other European revival styles, including Venetian and Byzantine architecture. Because of its distinctly decorative and romantic character, the Moorish style was particularly well suited for drawing customers to commercial buildings and businesses that provided entertainment. In the last quarter of the nineteenth century, buildings constructed for world’s fairs and other large-scale exhibitions in Europe and the United States frequently employed the Moorish style.

    Although Montana’s oldest Moorish-style building still standing is the Hebrew Benevolent Society’s Temple Emmanuel built in Helena in 1890-1891, generally the appearance of the Moorish style in Montana coincided with an increase in commerce statewide in the 1880s.5 Today, a few remnants of this architectural style can still be seen in some of the state’s older commercial blocks. A fine example is the facade of the Butte Miner Building (later called the Butte Floral Company). Built in 1884, it was remodeled in 1904 with a blend of decorative elements from Muslim Spain and Renaissance Venice.6

    Helena’s Broadwater Natatorium, built in 1889 by businessman Colonel Charles A. Broadwater, was undoubtedly the most important example of the Moorish style in the Northwest.7 Located two miles west of the capital at Ten-Mile Hot Springs, the hotel and plunge were a full-service European-style health spa; with its modern amenities, the resort rivaled nationally known spas at French Lick, Indiana, and Saratoga Springs, New York. A rectangular nave covered a three hundred by eighty-foot plunge plumbed with water from both hot mineral and cold mountain springs. The plunge featured a forty-foot-high mass of granite boulders, toboggan slides, waterfalls, and observation decks. Stained-glass windows and clerestories, rows of high windows that allowed light to penetrate the interior, lined its bays, and colorful tiles covered interior floors and walls. At night, lit from within by electric lights, the building glistened like a jewel box.8

    By the turn of the twentieth century, the Moorish style was clearly associated with commerce and leisure, and Butte’s Columbia Gardens amusement park was another manifestation of this powerful linkage. The Columbia Gardens, which opened in 1899, represented an unusual act of philanthropy by mogul William A. Clark, who envisioned the park with its lawns and gardens, ball fields, dance hall, and numerous rides and concessions Arcade at Columbia Gardensas the greatest entertainment center in the West. Clark used it as a means of promoting his Butte Electric Railway Company and other businesses and for advancing his political ambitions. Nonetheless, the park brought delight to the working people of Butte and countless other visitors. Clark considered it his greatest investment in spite of many unprofitable years.9

    Between 1900 and 1905, Clark added a number of buildings in a unified Moorish style to the park. The building campaign included a new facade for the ball field grandstands in 1902 and, between 1903 and 1905, a herbarium and a fish hatchery for local anglers, who feared that increased automobile traffic and tourism would denude the Big Hole River of fish. Situated high on the hillside above the Pavilion, the three stucco-covered frame buildings featured massive towers with fancy cupolas, arched entrances, windows set in horseshoe arches on fat columns, and cornices (projecting moldings) with rows of small niches. These enticing buildings with their festive rooflines bedecked with flags could be seen from a great distance.10

    Today, with the exception of an occasional horseshoe window or intricate brickwork on the fireplace of a Victorian house, few remnants of the Moorish style survive in Montana homes. One dramatic exception can be found in the interior of the Moss Mansion in Billings.11 In 1901 Billings banker Preston Boyd Moss commissioned a mansion from New York architect Henry J. Hardenbergh, who had designed the Waldorf-Astoria and Manhattan hotels in New York City and the Willard Hotel in Washington D.C. A financier from Missouri, Moss had taken over the First National Bank of Billings in 1892 and emerged from the Panic of 1893 as one of Montana’s wealthiest investors. Hardenbergh planned a formidable house for Moss in the English Renaissance style. However, eclecticism was the order of the day, and the interior of the house featured an odd combination of European period rooms and Moorish fantasy.12

    The centerpiece of the Moorish decorative program is a painted plaster portal known as the Saracenic Arch that separates the sumptuous entrance hall from the adjoining music room. (Consistent with the traditionally pleasurable character of the Moorish style, this folly of an arch served as a proscenium for plays and musical performances.) Plaster cornices and ceiling moldings with carved, polychrome six-pointed star patterns and imitation Koranic inscriptions unify the vestibule, stairwell, and landing on the second floor. Inlaid furniture, kilim rugs with horsehair tassels, and multicolored lamps with crescent moons complete the decorative program. These novelties were not uncommon in the homes of cultured Americans at the turn of the century.13

    The most impressive existing example of the Moorish style in Montana, and perhaps the whole Northwest, is the Algeria Shrine Temple in Helena. The Ancient Order of the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine (the Shriners) commissioned this mosque like building in 1920 from fellow members George S. Carley and C. S. Haire, best known for their design of Classical wings of the State Capitol.14 The style of the Algeria Shrine has often been called Saracenic, but it is a pastiche of Islamic architecture that features an enormous lancet arch over the central doorway, mismatched “minarets,” and a central dome over the auditorium. Decorative brickwork with an interlaced pattern covers the exterior. Although built after interest in the Moorish style had peaked in the United States, the Algeria Shrine reveals that Montanans participated fully in national architectural trends.15

    The second Spanish style used in Montana is known as the Mission style. Popular shortly after the turn of the century until World War II, the Mission style evoked the architecture of Spanish colonies in North America, particularly those in California and the Southwest. Inspiration for Mission-style buildings ranged from the grand Baroque churches of the California missions to the more modest pueblos and ranchos of the Southwest.16  Although easily recognized Winnett Schoolas influenced by Spanish architecture, these buildings, like Montana’s Moorish-style buildings, are stylistic hybrids. Stucco walls, curvilinear parapets (short walls extending above the roofline), curvilinear gables, terra-cotta or glazed roof tiles, and projecting eaves with carved rafter ends are typical elements. Mission-style buildings often include details such as bell towers, patios or cloisters with arcades or colonnades of semicircular arches, heavy wooden doors, fancy quatrefoil (cloverleaf) windows, bracketed porches, and wrought iron balconies.

    A number of factors may explain the abundance of Spanish colonial architecture in this state. Perhaps most important was the romance already associated with the missions, particularly in the West. The 1845 annexation of Texas, the taking of California in 1848, and the 1853 Gadsden Purchase spurred interest in the Southwest’s Spanish missions, which had been built in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries out of adobe brick and terra-cotta with wood beam roofs. In the 1850s writers began to popularize the decaying missions in promotional literature and fiction.17 Restored between 1890 and 1920, the missions, particularly those in California, attracted crowds of tourists who carried to other parts of the country an appreciation for Spanish-style architecture. Interest in the Spanish Mission style culminated with the 1915 Panama-California Exposition in San Diego. With its theatrical Mission-style buildings as well as grander pavilions modeled on Spanish Baroque palaces and churches, the exposition sent significant ripples across the American architectural landscape.

    The revival of Mission architecture also received a boost from the railroads. The Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railroad and the Southern Pacific Railroad adopted the Mission style for their depots and resort hotels nationwide, promoting it in literature and posters aimed particularly at eastern audiences.18 Other railroad companies that operated in Montana and the inland Northwest-the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul, and Pacific and the Northern Pacific Railroad--followed suit. By the end of the first decade of the twentieth century, the Mission style was increasingly associated with travel and tourism.

    The Milwaukee Depot in Missoula is perhaps the clearest example of the strong association between the Mission style and travel. Designed by architect J. A. Lindstrand and built in 1910, two years after the railroad laid its line through Missoula, the station is one of the most attractive and dramatic Mission-style buildings in Montana. The building’s focal points are two distinctive masonry towers, the taller of which faces the Higgins Street Bridge to the east. The style of these towers evokes the undulating muscularity of Spanish Baroque church portals. A luggage room of matching brown brick covered by a low roof with wide eaves and terra-cotta tiles sits adjacent to the main building to the west. Perhaps because of its complicated design or high construction cost, this design was not replicated elsewhere in the state.19

    Railroads continued to use the Mission style well into the 1920s. The other great Mission-style railroad building in Montana is the splendid Gallatin Gateway Inn near Bozeman designed by the Seattle firm of Schack, Young, and Myers. The magnificent hotel with its marble floors and mahogany Gallatin Gateway Innwoodwork opened in 1927 as a stopover point for visitors to Yellowstone National Park. Its crowning feature is the grand entrance lobby and its barrel-vaulted ceiling decorated with carved plaster ornament in Italian Renaissance and Spanish Baroque patterns. Other wings of the sprawling building feature clerestories of quatrefoil windows, porches with tiled floors, arched doorways, stucco walls with rich plaster ornament, and wrought iron chandeliers.20

    Changes in the architectural profession and the availability of new materials also account for the popularity of the Mission style in Montana. After the turn of the century, professional architects became increasingly comfortable with Spanish colonial building styles, materials, and design elements. They found the architecture well suited for civic buildings, businesses, and homes.21  Between the world wars in Montana, Mission-style buildings were primarily wood-frame construction with stucco walls; these new techniques and materials allowed the creation of buildings that looked like true adobe but were better suited for northern climes. The Portland Cement Company, for example, made dramatic breakthroughs in concrete masonry technology, insulation, and fire proofing and used mass marketing to popularize the style for homes in the 1920s.22

    Many Montana towns commissioned important civic buildings in Mission style in combination with complementary Romanesque and Italian Renaissance Revival elements. In some cases a single element or motif alluded to the Mission style. Built in 1908, the Fergus County Courthouse in Lewistown with its multistory, giant-order pilasters, Ionic porches, and heavy cornices is typical Fergus County Courthouseof the Classical architecture often used for government buildings of the time but for the large Mission-style curved gables dominating the masonry facades.23 Curvilinear gables or parapets were not only an elegant ßourish but also an easy allusion to the Mission style.24

    Originally, Spanish missions provided medical services to Indians and Spanish settlers, and two notable Mission-style hospitals in Montana continued this salubrious association. The Post Hospital at Fort Missoula, built in 1911 according to a standard plan recommended by the surgeon general’s guidelines of 1909, took advantage of a beautiful site between the Bitterroot River and the fort’s officers quarters, which were constructed at roughly the same time. The hospital was built as a three-story block under a low pitched, tile roof with a perpendicular wing facing the river, where porches provided convalescents with fresh air and room for exercise.25

    Typical of twentieth-century American hospitals, St. Peter’s Hospital in Helena grew as a series of wings and in a combination of styles, but the Mission style dominated the look of the complex until a modernist wing, added in 1957, disrupted the hospital’s architectural harmony. The Henrietta Brewer St peters Hospital in HelenaMemorial building and the Conrad Kohrs Memorial wing represented significant steps in the development of the architecture in Montana, as they revealed the Mission style’s compatibility with other styles, particularly Renaissance Revival architecture.26

    The handsome, four-story Brewer Memorial dedicated in 1910 was reminiscent of a Tuscan Renaissance palazzo. It featured a low pitched roof with terra-cotta tiles, a tower projecting above the main building, and a grand staircase at the main entrance. Brick stringcourses decorated rough stucco walls, while semicircular lunettes arched over the main floor windows. In 1931 New York architect Cass Gilbert, a devotee of Mission architecture, designed a new Mission-style wing endowed by Conrad Kohrs’s widow. It housed a much-needed operating room, obstetrical room, and additional private rooms.27 Gilbert also planned a four-story addition that contained a new entrance to the Brewer Memorial. Portioned into thirds, this block--shaped addition with its arched loggia and wrought iron balustrade on the top story looked much like a Renaissance tower. However, details such as tapering buttresses harmonized with the Tuscan style of the Brewer building and provided a more fashionable Mission flavor.

    The adaptability of the Mission style also made it ideal for school buildings, such as the Highland Park Grade School built in 1917 to accommodate Lewistown’s growing student population. Stucco walls and low pitched rooflines unified the school’s rectangular central block and two symmetrical classroom wings. A giant curvilinear parapet dominated on the central block. Twin bell towers with matching curvilinear gables, pitched roofs, and arched windows with decorative balustrades stood at the joints of the central buildings and the wings. The school was no doubt modeled on the Fergus County Courthouse, particularly in its use of curvilinear parapets, but it may also have been inspired by the architecture of the Milwaukee Road, which began service to Lewistown in 1908.28

    The Fergus County Courthouse was likely a model for Lewistown architect Otto Wasmansdorff when he drew up plans for a school in the Mission style for the central Montana community of Winnett. The one-story building constructed between 1919 and 1921 featured a central lobby and gymnasium/auditorium under a hipped roof with wings to the north and south for four classrooms. Projecting to the north and west from stucco walls, distinctive entries tapered as they rose above the roofline, culminating in dramatic curvilinear gables. The actual doorways were recessed under wide arches. This evocation of the California missions was quite a fashionable statement for a small town school.29

    There were no Spanish missions in Montana, and none of the early Jesuit missions were built in the Spanish style.30 Churches, however, were natural candidates for buildings in the Mission style. The University Congregational Church in Missoula, attributed to A. J. Gibson, is among the handful of Mission-style churches built in the 1920s and 1930s. It is exceptional for its simplicity and elegant design. Built in 1923, the building featured a square nave with two small blocks to the east and west. The exterior, with stuccoed walls, tapering buttresses, arched windows and doorways, tiled roof, and wide eaves, was a clear allusion to the California missions, whereas the smaller blocks, one of which functioned as a vestibule, recalled the architecture of Southwestern pueblos with their flat roofs and vigas, or projecting beams.31

    As with the Moorish style, some of the most popular Mission-style buildings in Montana were created with entertainment and proFIt in mind. To the Moorish-style buildings at the Columbia Gardens in Butte, William A. Clark added the impressive Mission-style Pavilion after its predecessor burned to the ground in 1907. The new Pavilion boasted great stucco arches and curvilinear parapets on each of its four facades and three-story towers at the corners. A covered porch encircled the first story. In front of the Pavilion, Clark erected the matching Arcade to house concessions in 1910. This one-story building, built on a gentle slope and surrounded by a covered boardwalk, exuded a festive air with its row of flag-adorned curvilinear gables on the main facades.32

    Taking his cue from Columbia Gardens, in 1909 Butte millionaire and later United States Senator James A. Murray spent two hundred thousand dollars to remodel the Queen Anne-style May Hotel, located three miles south of Boulder, into a Mission-style resort. Originally built between 1889 and 1891 as a fifty-two room hotel by railroad tycoon C. W. Kerrick, the May enjoyed a beautiful view of the Little Boulder River and the Elkhorn Range to the north. However, by the turn of the century, Queen Anne-style architecture was waning.33

    Murray hired architect Stanford K. White to redo the hotel in the “Old California Mission style.” White supervised construction of an outdoor plunge, an enclosed bathhouse, support buildings, and a new wing connected to the older building by a small passageway on the south. (In imitation of Moorish gardens a sunken fountain bubbled in a small courtyard created by the addition of the new wing.) The Queen Anne turret became a mission bell tower. Unifying the north facade was a long veranda overlooking the hay fields that allowed guests to take in the magnificent view. Stuccoing the exterior and introducing Spanish elements such as arched entryways, quatrefoil windows, and curvilinear gables and iron coping to enhance the dormers of the main building completed the transformation. Inside, new beams of Oregon fir spanned the refurbished lobby and common areas decorated with Tiffany lamps, sofas in Spanish leather, and oriental carpets. The luxury and exoticism of the new decor was intended to appeal to wealthy travelers.34

    In the 1910s and 1920s two other resorts, Gregson Hot Springs between Anaconda and Butte near Silver Bow Creek and the Symes Hotel in Hot Springs, adopted the Mission style.35 A wide front entrance with three balloon--roofed towers, arched windows on the upper stories, and a long arcade with pillars and a curvilinear parapet extending across the facade distinguished the 1926 Gregson hotel remodel. Designed in the Mission style by Kalispell architect Fred Brinkman in 1929, the Symes Hotel was a much simpler stucco building with a curvilinear parapet and quatrefoil windows, but it grew with additions that were remarkably faithful to the original building. The pattern of updating older buildings in the Mission style continued until World War II.

    In roughly the same period, businessmen built or remodeled a number of commercial buildings in the attractive Mission style in downtowns throughout Montana. Between 1917 and 1922 John H. Empson, president of the Western States Land and Development Company, purchased the land on the southeast corner of Placer and Fuller streets in Helena and the neighboring Park Hotel at A. M. Holter Hardwarethe corner of Placer and North Main (today’s North Last Chance Gulch) to build a fashionable Mission-style block.36 In later years owners modernized other buildings in downtown Helena. The 1875 Bonneville Apartments were remodeled in the Mission style around 1926, and the A. M. Holter Hardware Company building, built in the 1880s, received a new facade sometime around 1929.37 Additions included rough stucco walls, tile roofs, and wrought iron balconies.

    Meanwhile, across the country the Mission style was being used to attract audiences to new movie houses. The most impressive of these in Montana is the Yucca Theater in Hysham, built in 1931 by David and Jim Manning. In 1921 David Manning worked for a construction company in the Southwest, where he was exposed to Mission architecture. After David returned to Yucca TheaterHysham in 1925 and started his own construction firm with his brother, the pair, who had previously owned a silent picture house, decided to build a state-of-the-art talking picture theater with a stage for plays. They constructed a two-story, brick theater with stucco walls, buttresses, and two tapering towers for the front entrance; the whimsical design evokes the feel of a Southwestern mission church.38

    As automobile travel became increasingly affordable, Montanans began exploring their state. The Mission style, associated as it was with leisure, commerce, and travel, was well suited for gasoline stations and automobile repair shops. Photographs from the 1920s through World War II reveal the Western States land and Development Companyextent of the style’s popularity and its widespread diffusion. Many of these businesses were simply older buildings updated with stucco facades and other Spanish flourishes. A few of these vernacular buildings survive, including the Williston Basin Building in Saco built circa 1900, the 1940 Point Motel in Cut Bank, and Jamieson’s Garage in Chinook remodeled in 1928 and 1943.39

    Private residences built from the turn of the century to World War II show Montanans’ affinity for the Mission style as well. The Adams home in Great Falls is among the oldest and finest homes built in the Mission style by Montana’s new wealthy. Born in Fort Crook, California, in 1859, Francis J. Adams came to Montana to practice medicine in 1889, settling in Great Falls and eventually founding the first hospital there. His two-story mansion built in 1909 featured stucco walls with high curvilinear gables and porthole windows. Adams HomeA terra-cotta tile roof and bracketed balconies with iron balustrades completed the exterior, while a solarium with a barrel-vaulted ceiling and tile floor distinguished the home’s interior. The Mission-style architecture must have evoked for Adams childhood memories of California and perhaps even the Philippines, the former Spanish colony where he was stationed during the Spanish-American War of 1898-1899.40

    As new, less expensive building materials and technology became widespread, Mission-style homes began to crop up in the state’s new residential neighborhoods, particularly in larger towns. From the late 1910s until World War II, many homeowners built one-story Mission-style bungalows; in Bozeman, for example, the Mission-style bungalow was introduced in 1916, the year after the opening of the Panama-California Exposition in San Diego.41 Many of these modest homes blended elements of Indian pueblo architecture copied from the blocklike, adobe buildings of the Southwest with those of Spanish colonial architecture. The Pueblo style, an offshoot of the Mission style, became popular throughout the West in the 1920s and 1930s, and its geometric properties were easily conflated with those of modern Cubist designs.

    It is hard to know precisely why Montanans chose the Moorish and Mission styles for so many of their buildings between the 1880s and World War II. Certainly, there were other popular architectural styles available. The Great Northern Railway, for example, chose the rustic Swiss alpine lodge as a prototype for its hotels and depots. Today this style is associated not only with the national parks but with the Northwest in general. At the time, however, civic leaders perceived these rustic log and stone buildings as inappropriate for urban public buildings, no matter how popular they were for resort architecture or even private homes. Classically inspired architecture in all its variations, while suited for civic buildings, seemed too formal for commercial buildings and did little to articulate the West’s growing sense of regional identity and vitality. Spanish architectural styles, however, were expressive and adaptable.

    Montanans used Spanish styles, particularly the Mission, in a remarkable variety of buildings. This phenomenon was in all likelihood the result of two factors. First was the flexibility of this architectural language, its organic capacity to merge with other popular styles, and its ease of execution in a range of building types and materials. The second, and perhaps most significant, factor was the burning desire on the part of many Montanans to be perceived as progressive, contemporary, and cosmopolitan at the threshold of a new century. Montanans’ savvy choice of Spanish styles resulted in architecture that was perceived as both progressive and rooted in history.

HIPîLITO RAFAEL CHACîN is associate professor of art history and criticism at the University of Montana, Missoula.

Footnotes:

1. James M. Ashley to Judge William H. Hunt, April 28, 1892, in “The Naming of Montana,” Montana The Magazine of Western History, 2 (July 1952), 65-66, reprinted in Journal of the American Name Society, 4 (September 1956), 176 ff. The first European power to explore the Northwest coast, Spain claimed this area based on explorations during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries and control of the Louisiana territories in the eighteenth century. There is no evidence that the Spaniards penetrated as far as the northern Rockies, and in all likelihood, the first European explorers of Montana were French trappers, traders, and missionaries. Spain eventually lost whatever claims it had in the Northwest to France and England through neglect and to the United States through treaty.

2. Also called Hispano-moresque, Saracenic, or Byzantine (not to be confused with the distinct Byzantine architecture), Moorish-style architecture was not a strict revival of a specific style or particular kind of building, rather it was a composite of mainly decorative elements from Muslim Spain, North Africa, and the Near East applied to modern buildings.

3. Robert Kirsner, “North American Views of Spain” (paper read at International Symposium in Honor of Lieutenant General Manuel GutiŽrrez Mellado, University of Miami, Coral Gables, Florida, 1989).

4. Karen J. Weitze, California’s Mission Revival (Los Angeles, 1984), 9, 38-43, 50-56.

5. Built by Heinlen and Matthias at 530 North Ewing Street, the much--altered temple now houses the offices of the Catholic archdiocese. Herbert L. Jacobson, Donald L. Byrd, and Chere Jiusto, Helena: An Historic City (Helena, Mont., 1982), 29.

6. The building is at 27 West Broadway. John DeHaas, Historic Uptown Butte (Bozeman, Mont., 1977), 35; Brian Shovers, “Central Business District Report, Butte National Historic Landmark, Architectural Inventory,” 1985, State Historic Preservation Office, Helena, Montana (hereafter SHPO).

7. Helena architects John C. Paulsen and Noah J. McConnell designed the Natatorium. Paulsen was trained in Germany and worked in Vienna, Zurich, and Paris, where he familiarized himself with the Moorish style. McConnell had no formal training. Great Northern Bulletin (Summer 1892), 2, cited in Patricia Dean, “The True Carlsbad of America: The Hotel Broadwater and Natatorium of Helena, Montana,” [1979?], p. 6, National Register Files (hereafter NR Files), SHPO.

8. Ibid., 6; Patricia C. Allen, Jr., “The Broadwater Hotel and Natatorium: One Man’s Unfulfilled Dream” (honors thesis, Carroll College, 1995), 36. Montana’s fickle economy killed the venture in 1894. A series of earthquakes in 1935 severely damaged the plunge, and it was razed in 1946, while the hotel building was dismantled and auctioned off in 1974. Ibid., 59.

9. Pat Kearney, Butte’s Pride-The Columbia Gardens (Butte, Mont., 1994), 7ff.

10. Ibid., 14. The buildings were demolished in 1976 when the Anaconda Company mined the site of the gardens.

11. Helena Daily Record, July 19, 1903, contains a thorough description of the home and its furnishings. See also Kathryn Wright, “Old McCormick Home at Billings Becomes Victim of City’s Growth,” Montana The Magazine of Western History, 4 (Spring 1954), 52; and Jo D. Harris, “Moss Mansion: Gem of the Yellowstone Valley,” Yippy-Yi-Yea, 4 (April 1995), 70-73.

12. Perhaps, too, the orientalist decorative program had to do with Moss’s membership in the Masonic order as exotic allusions to Islam would have been recognizable to his peers. If there was a coherent Masonic iconography encoded in the decorations, it is still a mystery. Ruth Towe, Moss Mansion curator, conversation with author, Billings, Montana, 1998.

13. Butte’s Hennessy’s Department Store sold exotic goods in its Moorish Room around 1900. Elsewhere in the country, a number of famous people-including Lew Wallace, minister to Turkey and author of Ben Hur (1880), Frederick Church, one of the great painters of the West, and world traveler George Metz-built grand homes in the Moorish style.

14. The building, which cost three hundred sixty-five thousand dollars to build, suffered some damage during the 1935 earthquakes. Three years later the municipal government bought it, though without minor architectural details such as the distinctive crescent and star that stood atop the minaret. The large ballroom and twenty-five-hundred-seat auditorium are now Helena’s Civic Center. Jacobson, Byrd, and Jiusto, Helena: An Historic City, 11.

15. Examples abound across the country. In the West the Algeria Shrine is rivaled only by the Corn Palace built in 1921 in Mitchell, South Dakota.

16. No clear connection between Spanish Mission architecture and the adobe buildings at Fort Owen and Fort Benton has been established. Carling Malouf and William Smurr, “Ft. Owen-A Chronology,” ca. 1957, Fort Owen Vertical File, Montana Historical Society Library, Helena (hereafter MHS); Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks, “Fort Owen, State Monument,” n.d., ibid.

17. The most popular fictional account of life in the California missions was Helen J. Hunt’s Ramona (1884). Tourists flocked to sites mentioned in the novel. See Weitze, California’s Mission Revival, 8, 14-17, 136.

18. Ibid., 66, 73 f, 84-90. See also Carlos A. Schwantes, Railroad Signatures across the Pacific Northwest, 3d ed. (Seattle, 1999), 231.

19. James R. McDonald, Missoula Historical Resources Survey (Missoula, Mont., 1980), 173, 293. This more theatrical version of the Mission style reached its zenith at the 1915 Panama-California Exposition. The building is in excellent condition although the original tile roof has been replaced with asphalt shingles and a nondescript wing connects the main building and luggage room.

20. The hotel declined during the Depression and suffered neglect thereafter. It was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1986 and has been fully restored with minor modifications. “Gallatin Gateway Inn,” n.d., brochure, NR Files, SHPO.

21. While grand homes were built in the Mission style, its use for modest residences did not peak until the 1920s and 1930s when smaller homes and apartment buildings could be built relatively inexpensively. New technologies, such as mass-produced iron beams

and poured concrete supports and the availability of skilled immigrant labor, contributed to this trend.

22. The Portland Cement Company published architects’ renderings, descriptions, and plans for houses with chapters on concrete masonry construction, stucco finishes, and roofing materials. A 1925 edition lists as Spanish-style models the Cordova, Santa Barbara, Alhambra, Piedmont, Pasadena, Berkely, Columbia, and Saratoga. Portland Cement Association, Plans for Concrete Houses (Portland, Oreg., 1925).

23. Ken Sievert and Ellen Cornwall, “Montana Historical and Architectural Survey,” site 192, 1983, NR Files, SHPO. See also Roberta Donovan, The First One Hundred Years . . . A History of Lewistown, Montana (Lewistown, Mont., 1994). Newton C. Gauntt of North Yakima, Washington, designed the building.

24. The curvilinear gable was employed in other buildings throughout the state. The Broadway Apartments on nearby Sixth Avenue North in Lewistown, built in 1913, has a similar pediment on the main facade. Ken Sievert and Ellen Cornwall, “Lewistown Historical and Architectural Survey,” site 28, 1983, NR Files, SHPO. The design of the Central School in Helena, built in 1915 and expanded in 1921, also incorporated curvilinear parapets in an otherwise sober plan.

25. As a part of the Fort Missoula Historic District, the building was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1987, and though underutilized and much decayed, it still functions as a clinic. Robert Brown, director of Historical Museum at Fort Missoula, conversation with author, Missoula, Montana, 1998.

26. The original hospital, a brick Italianate mansion, was erected in 1886 under the direction of Bishop Leigh Richmond Brewer. It was partially destroyed by fire in 1901, rebuilt, and used as a nurses’ home until 1937 when it was razed. “Historic St. Peter’s Hospital,” Montana The Magazine of Western History, 11 (Summer 1961), 51-52.

27. Cass Gilbert, “California Has a Distinct Type of Architecture,” Architect and Engineer (November 1909), 98. Gilbert is better known for his classical buildings: the Minnesota State Capitol (circa 1890), Festival Hall at the Louisiana Purchase Exposition, St. Louis (1904), Helena’s Montana Club (1905), the New York City Woolworth Building (1911-1913), and the United States Supreme Court Building (1929). Geoffrey Blodgett, “Cass Gilbert, Architect: Conservative at Bay,” Journal of American History, 72 (December 1985), 615-36.

28. Lewistown boomed after the coming of the railroad in 1908. The school, built at a cost of forty-five thousand dollars, never fully met the needs of a student population that sometimes grew by as many as three hundred students per year. The building was demolished in 1967. Donovan, The First One Hundred Years, 178-79.

29. The school was unsuccessfully nominated to the National Register of Historic Places in 1995. It was demolished in 1997.

30. A number of Catholic churches in the Mission style can be found in Blaine County. Designed in the style of a Spanish mission by Emil Nelson and built in 1924, the Sacred Heart Catholic Church is located approximately thirty-five miles south of Harlem off Highway 66. Father Frederick Eberschweiler founded the church in the late 1890s to serve the Milk River Valley’s Gros Ventre and Assiniboine Indians. The stucco-covered church with its identical curvilinear gables on the vestibule and upper part of the nave was nominated to the National Register in 1995. St. Thomas the Apostle Church in Harlem, built in 1932, is similar in design and finish. William P. Schoenberg, Jesuits in Montana, 1840-1960 (Portland, Oreg., 1960); C. H. McCarney, “The History of Blaine County and Its People,” n.d., Blaine County, Mont., Vertical File, MHS; Roberta B. West, “History of Blaine County Churches,” undated newspaper clipping, ibid.

31. Some ornamental details are gone, but the building is intact.

32. The original Pavilion was a nondescript frame structure with turrets and large balconies. The second Pavilion was dismantled in 1976 when the area was mined by the Anaconda Company. Its corner towers and one of the central arches were salvaged and reused at Columbia Gardens II, an attempt to reconfigure the remnants of the park at the Beef Trail Ski area. Under suspicious circumstances later that year, fire destroyed the Arcade, the building most readily identified with the park at the time of its closure in 1973. Pat Kearney, Butte’s Pride.

33. Local businessmen Abel C. Quaintance and Cornelius Griswald built the first hotel on the site in 1882. James W. Sanddal and Nels D. Sanddal, “A History of the Diamond S Ranch Hotel and Hot Springs,” 1969, brochure in NR Files, SHPO.

34. Ibid. The Boulder Hot Springs Hotel, known at the time as Diamond S Resort, was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1979. It has undergone extensive refurbishment.

35. Butte Miner, July 5, 1926; Sanders County (Montana) Independent-Record, July 3, 1929, February 19, 1930. The Symes Hotel was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1998.

36. The building names first appeared in the Helena City Directory under the names Montana Building and Capital Court, but these changed in 1920. Chere Jiusto, “Downtown Helena Historic Survey, Historical and Architectural Inventory,” 1989, Helena Historic District, NR Files, SHPO. The Empson Buildings were razed in 1978. Lon Johnson, National Register coordinator, State Historic Preservation Office, conversation with author, Helena, Montana, 1998.

37. Jacobson and Shope, “Historic Architectural Survey of the Urban Renewal Area, City of Helena,” 1968, p. 69, Helena Historic District, NR Files, SHPO. The building, at 113 and 115 North Last Chance Gulch, was razed during urban renewal in 1974.

38. Ruth Carrington, ed., Tales of Treasure County: Historical Essays by Residents of Treasure County, Montana (Hysham, Mont. 1976), 189. The theater was in continual operation from the Depression until the 1960s and the Dave Manning family lived in the rear of the building. In 1994 the building was listed in the National Register of Historic Places. It now houses a museum.

39. “Roadside Architecture along U.S. 2 in Montana” sites 172, 15, 52, NR Files, SHPO.

40. Clifford D. and Ellan R. Yuill, Historic Homes of Montana, vol. 1 (Great Falls, Mont., 1986), 44-45. Adams was the son of Confederate general John Adams and the grandson of Brigadier General Charles McDougall.

41. Kingston Wm. Heath, “Striving for Permanence on the Western Frontier: Vernacular Architecture as Cultural Informant in Southwestern Montana” (Ph.D. diss., Brown University, 1985), 308. See also Jacobson, Byrd, and Jiusto, Helena: An Historic City, 11, for a description of these homes in Helena.

Captions and credits:

  1. James M. Ashley to Judge William H. Hunt, April 28, 1892, in “The Naming of Montana,” Montana The Magazine of Western History, 2 (July 1952), 65-66, reprinted in Journal of the American Name Society, 4 (September 1956), 176 ff. The first European power to explore the Northwest coast, Spain claimed this area based on explorations during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries and control of the Louisiana territories in the eighteenth century. There is no evidence that the Spaniards penetrated as far as the northern Rockies, and in all likelihood, the first European explorers of Montana were French trappers, traders, and missionaries. Spain eventually lost whatever claims it had in the Northwest to France and England through neglect and to the United States through treaty.

  2. Also called Hispano-moresque, Saracenic, or Byzantine (not to be confused with the distinct Byzantine architecture), Moorish-style architecture was not a strict revival of a specific style or particular kind of building, rather it was a composite of mainly decorative elements from Muslim Spain, North Africa, and the Near East applied to modern buildings.

  3. Robert Kirsner, “North American Views of Spain” (paper read at International Symposium in Honor of Lieutenant General Manuel GutiŽrrez Mellado, University of Miami, Coral Gables, Florida, 1989).

  4. Karen J. Weitze, California’s Mission Revival (Los Angeles, 1984), 9, 38-43, 50-56.

  5. Built by Heinlen and Matthias at 530 North Ewing Street, the much--altered temple now houses the offices of the Catholic archdiocese. Herbert L. Jacobson, Donald L. Byrd, and Chere Jiusto, Helena: An Historic City (Helena, Mont., 1982), 29.

  6. The building is at 27 West Broadway. John DeHaas, Historic Uptown Butte (Bozeman, Mont., 1977), 35; Brian Shovers, “Central Business District Report, Butte National Historic Landmark, Architectural Inventory,” 1985, State Historic Preservation Office, Helena, Montana (hereafter SHPO).

  7. Helena architects John C. Paulsen and Noah J. McConnell designed the Natatorium. Paulsen was trained in Germany and worked in Vienna, Zurich, and Paris, where he familiarized himself with the Moorish style. McConnell had no formal training. Great Northern Bulletin (Summer 1892), 2, cited in Patricia Dean, “The True Carlsbad of America: The Hotel Broadwater and Natatorium of Helena, Montana,” [1979?], p. 6, National Register Files (hereafter NR Files), SHPO.

  8. Ibid., 6; Patricia C. Allen, Jr., “The Broadwater Hotel and Natatorium: One Man’s Unfulfilled Dream” (honors thesis, Carroll College, 1995), 36. Montana’s fickle economy killed the venture in 1894. A series of earthquakes in 1935 severely damaged the plunge, and it was razed in 1946, while the hotel building was dismantled and auctioned off in 1974. Ibid., 59.

  9. Pat Kearney, Butte’s Pride-The Columbia Gardens (Butte, Mont., 1994), 7ff.

10. Ibid., 14. The buildings were demolished in 1976 when the Anaconda Company mined the site of the gardens.

11. Helena Daily Record, July 19, 1903, contains a thorough description of the home and its furnishings. See also Kathryn Wright, “Old McCormick Home at Billings Becomes Victim of City’s Growth,” Montana The Magazine of Western History, 4 (Spring 1954), 52; and Jo D. Harris, “Moss Mansion: Gem of the Yellowstone Valley,” Yippy-Yi-Yea, 4 (April 1995), 70-73.

12. Perhaps, too, the orientalist decorative program had to do with Moss’s membership in the Masonic order as exotic allusions to Islam would have been recognizable to his peers. If there was a coherent Masonic iconography encoded in the decorations, it is still a mystery. Ruth Towe, Moss Mansion curator, conversation with author, Billings, Montana, 1998.

13. Butte’s Hennessy’s Department Store sold exotic goods in its Moorish Room around 1900. Elsewhere in the country, a number of famous people-including Lew Wallace, minister to Turkey and author of Ben Hur (1880), Frederick Church, one of the great painters of the West, and world traveler George Metz-built grand homes in the Moorish style.

14. The building, which cost three hundred sixty-five thousand dollars to build, suffered some damage during the 1935 earthquakes. Three years later the municipal government bought it, though without minor architectural details such as the distinctive crescent and star that stood atop the minaret. The large ballroom and twenty-five-hundred-seat auditorium are now Helena’s Civic Center. Jacobson, Byrd, and Jiusto, Helena: An Historic City, 11.

15. Examples abound across the country. In the West the Algeria Shrine is rivaled only by the Corn Palace built in 1921 in Mitchell, South Dakota.

16. No clear connection between Spanish Mission architecture and the adobe buildings at Fort Owen and Fort Benton has been established. Carling Malouf and William Smurr, “Ft. Owen-A Chronology,” ca. 1957, Fort Owen Vertical File, Montana Historical Society Library, Helena (hereafter MHS); Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks, “Fort Owen, State Monument,” n.d., ibid.

17. The most popular fictional account of life in the California missions was Helen J. Hunt’s Ramona (1884). Tourists flocked to sites mentioned in the novel. See Weitze, California’s Mission Revival, 8, 14-17, 136.

18. Ibid., 66, 73 f, 84-90. See also Carlos A. Schwantes, Railroad Signatures across the Pacific Northwest, 3d ed. (Seattle, 1999), 231.

19. James R. McDonald, Missoula Historical Resources Survey (Missoula, Mont., 1980), 173, 293. This more theatrical version of the Mission style reached its zenith at the 1915 Panama-California Exposition. The building is in excellent condition although the original tile roof has been replaced with asphalt shingles and a nondescript wing connects the main building and luggage room.

20. The hotel declined during the Depression and suffered neglect thereafter. It was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1986 and has been fully restored with minor modifications. “Gallatin Gateway Inn,” n.d., brochure, NR Files, SHPO.

21. While grand homes were built in the Mission style, its use for modest residences did not peak until the 1920s and 1930s when smaller homes and apartment buildings could be built relatively inexpensively. New technologies, such as mass-produced iron beams

and poured concrete supports and the availability of skilled immigrant labor, contributed to this trend.

22. The Portland Cement Company published architects’ renderings, descriptions, and plans for houses with chapters on concrete masonry construction, stucco finishes, and roofing materials. A 1925 edition lists as Spanish-style models the Cordova, Santa Barbara, Alhambra, Piedmont, Pasadena, Berkely, Columbia, and Saratoga. Portland Cement Association, Plans for Concrete Houses (Portland, Oreg., 1925).

23. Ken Sievert and Ellen Cornwall, “Montana Historical and Architectural Survey,” site 192, 1983, NR Files, SHPO. See also Roberta Donovan, The First One Hundred Years . . . A History of Lewistown, Montana (Lewistown, Mont., 1994). Newton C. Gauntt of North Yakima, Washington, designed the building.

24. The curvilinear gable was employed in other buildings throughout the state. The Broadway Apartments on nearby Sixth Avenue North in Lewistown, built in 1913, has a similar pediment on the main facade. Ken Sievert and Ellen Cornwall, “Lewistown Historical and Architectural Survey,” site 28, 1983, NR Files, SHPO. The design of the Central School in Helena, built in 1915 and expanded in 1921, also incorporated curvilinear parapets in an otherwise sober plan.

25. As a part of the Fort Missoula Historic District, the building was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1987, and though underutilized and much decayed, it still functions as a clinic. Robert Brown, director of Historical Museum at Fort Missoula, conversation with author, Missoula, Montana, 1998.

26. The original hospital, a brick Italianate mansion, was erected in 1886 under the direction of Bishop Leigh Richmond Brewer. It was partially destroyed by fire in 1901, rebuilt, and used as a nurses’ home until 1937 when it was razed. “Historic St. Peter’s Hospital,” Montana The Magazine of Western History, 11 (Summer 1961), 51-52.

27. Cass Gilbert, “California Has a Distinct Type of Architecture,” Architect and Engineer (November 1909), 98. Gilbert is better known for his classical buildings: the Minnesota State Capitol (circa 1890), Festival Hall at the Louisiana Purchase Exposition, St. Louis (1904), Helena’s Montana Club (1905), the New York City Woolworth Building (1911-1913), and the United States Supreme Court Building (1929). Geoffrey Blodgett, “Cass Gilbert, Architect: Conservative at Bay,” Journal of American History, 72 (December 1985), 615-36.

28. Lewistown boomed after the coming of the railroad in 1908. The school, built at a cost of forty-five thousand dollars, never fully met the needs of a student population that sometimes grew by as many as three hundred students per year. The building was demolished in 1967. Donovan, The First One Hundred Years, 178-79.

29. The school was unsuccessfully nominated to the National Register of Historic Places in 1995. It was demolished in 1997.

30. A number of Catholic churches in the Mission style can be found in Blaine County. Designed in the style of a Spanish mission by Emil Nelson and built in 1924, the Sacred Heart Catholic Church is located approximately thirty-five miles south of Harlem off Highway 66. Father Frederick Eberschweiler founded the church in the late 1890s to serve the Milk River Valley’s Gros Ventre and Assiniboine Indians. The stucco-covered church with its identical curvilinear gables on the vestibule and upper part of the nave was nominated to the National Register in 1995. St. Thomas the Apostle Church in Harlem, built in 1932, is similar in design and finish. William P. Schoenberg, Jesuits in Montana, 1840-1960 (Portland, Oreg., 1960); C. H. McCarney, “The History of Blaine County and Its People,” n.d., Blaine County, Mont., Vertical File, MHS; Roberta B. West, “History of Blaine County Churches,” undated newspaper clipping, ibid.

31. Some ornamental details are gone, but the building is intact.

32. The original Pavilion was a nondescript frame structure with turrets and large balconies. The second Pavilion was dismantled in 1976 when the area was mined by the Anaconda Company. Its corner towers and one of the central arches were salvaged and reused at Columbia Gardens II, an attempt to reconfigure the remnants of the park at the Beef Trail Ski area. Under suspicious circumstances later that year, fire destroyed the Arcade, the building most readily identified with the park at the time of its closure in 1973. Pat Kearney, Butte’s Pride.

33. Local businessmen Abel C. Quaintance and Cornelius Griswald built the first hotel on the site in 1882. James W. Sanddal and Nels D. Sanddal, “A History of the Diamond S Ranch Hotel and Hot Springs,” 1969, brochure in NR Files, SHPO.

34. Ibid. The Boulder Hot Springs Hotel, known at the time as Diamond S Resort, was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1979. It has undergone extensive refurbishment.

35. Butte Miner, July 5, 1926; Sanders County (Montana) Independent-Record, July 3, 1929, February 19, 1930. The Symes Hotel was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1998.

36. The building names first appeared in the Helena City Directory under the names Montana Building and Capital Court, but these changed in 1920. Chere Jiusto, “Downtown Helena Historic Survey, Historical and Architectural Inventory,” 1989, Helena Historic District, NR Files, SHPO. The Empson Buildings were razed in 1978. Lon Johnson, National Register coordinator, State Historic Preservation Office, conversation with author, Helena, Montana, 1998.

37. Jacobson and Shope, “Historic Architectural Survey of the Urban Renewal Area, City of Helena,” 1968, p. 69, Helena Historic District, NR Files, SHPO. The building, at 113 and 115 North Last Chance Gulch, was razed during urban renewal in 1974.

38. Ruth Carrington, ed., Tales of Treasure County: Historical Essays by Residents of Treasure County, Montana (Hysham, Mont. 1976), 189. The theater was in continual operation from the Depression until the 1960s and the Dave Manning family lived in the rear of the building. In 1994 the building was listed in the National Register of Historic Places. It now houses a museum.

39. “Roadside Architecture along U.S. 2 in Montana” sites 172, 15, 52, NR Files, SHPO.

40. Clifford D. and Ellan R. Yuill, Historic Homes of Montana, vol. 1 (Great Falls, Mont., 1986), 44-45. Adams was the son of Confederate general John Adams and the grandson of Brigadier General Charles McDougall.

41. Kingston Wm. Heath, “Striving for Permanence on the Western Frontier: Vernacular Architecture as Cultural Informant in Southwestern Montana” (Ph.D. diss., Brown University, 1985), 308. See also Jacobson, Byrd, and Jiusto, Helena: An Historic City, 11, for a description of these homes in Helena.


From Montana The Magazine of Western History, 51 (Summer 2001), 20-29; this article is presented courtesy of the Montana Historical Society.  All rights reserved, © 2001.

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