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Rodeo, New Mexico
October 7, 2007
From journal City of Mountains and Gulches: Helena, Montana
January 9, 2005
After a bitter and controversial fight for the capital title with Anaconda, Helena won after a statewide election. Construction of the capitol started in 1899, and the building was open on July 4th, 1902. In front of the building is a statue of General Thomas Francis Meagher, added in 1905. He was an officer in the Union Army and replaced the governor of the territory of Montana when he was away. He also wrote a draft of the Constitution for Montana, in case it would become a state. He died mysteriously in Fort Benton, on the Missouri River, while waiting for a gun shipment. To this day, no one knows if he drowned or was murdered.
A few years later, as Montana grew, other wings were added to the building. The Capitol is now undergoing a renovation, so the statue might not be here, and the building can be accessed through the back entrance. The first thing you'll notice in the building is the big painted rotunda with medallions representing important people in the history of Montana at the time: cowboys, natives, explorers, and miners. The tones are warm red and yellow, with touches of green. A grand stairway goes up from the lobby, and you'll be bathed in a golden light coming from the stained-glass overlooking the gardens in the back and covering this aisle of the capitol.
All three powers used to be housed in the building: the House and Senate of Montana, the Governor's office, and the Supreme Court (now in another building close by, but the old Supreme Court remains). The building is filled with paintings depicting important moments in Montana's history. The most important one being is "Lewis and Clark Meeting the Indians at Ross Hole," a remembrance of the moment when the two explorers' party met with Salish Indians and asked them for the best way to cross the mountains and reach the Pacific. You can see it in the House room, above the speaker's chair.
It is also filled with statues, one of which is Jeanette Rankin, the first woman to be elected to the US House in 1916. Speaking of that, the House and Senate floors are pretty neat. The dark woods and paintings give them a stately and solemn air that's guaranteed to make you take the state's business seriously. The Senate and Old Court are located on the second floor (if I'm not mistaken), around the rotunda, while the House is on the third floor in another part of the building. The Governor's office is on the first floor, at the end of the aisles starting from the lobby (the other side is the State Secretary’s office).
From journal Helena, a capital and a boomtown
January 5, 2007
From journal It's a Hell-un-a Place!