Montana's State Capitol: The People's House
New Book on Capitol Shows Off Montana Pride
The architectural “jewel” that Montanans built to celebrate their commitment to self-government and to their heritage is captured in all its splendor in the new book, Montana’s State Capitol: The People’s House.
The Montana Historical Society Press published the coffee-table-style book to help commemorate the hundredth anniversary of the newly restored Capitol.
“Just like our Capitol itself, this book will stand the test of time. From its history to its artwork, our Capitol is uniquely Montana. The Society is very proud of this book, and we think Montanans will take pride in reading it and using it to pass on our heritage to others,” Society Director Arnold Olsen said.
Funded by a grant from the Montana History Foundation, the book was written by Society Museum Services Director Susan Near, Society Curator of Collections Kirby Lambert, and art historian Patricia Burnham, professor at the University of Texas.
Lavishly illustrated with both historic and modern photographs, Montana’s State Capitol provides a visual treat as well as essays that explore the construction of the Capitol and the creation of the sculptures and murals that adorn its halls.
“It is no accident that our Capitol features the work of Montana artists, who tell the Montana story in a moving and beautiful way,” Near said. “From Charlie Russell, Edgar Paxson and Ralph DeCamp right down to today with Gareth Curtiss of Fortine creating the new Mike and Maureen Mansfield statue, our people have looked to Montanans for Capitol artwork.”
Burnham said Montana’s Capitol offers a special view of Montana history because the art program avoided the allegorical art that adorns many other state capitols. “Their [Montana artists] gift for creating deeply realized visual narratives has stimulated the minds and moved the hearts of thousands of viewers over the years,” Burnham said. “They were the best historians of the lot, men who at least tried to grapple with the issues of frontier history.”
In addition to featuring the history and murals of the Capitol, the book also offers biographical sketches of Montana leaders whose contributions are commemorated by Capitol sculptures: Thomas Francis Meagher, Wilbur Fisk Sanders, Thomas Walsh, Joseph Dixon, Burton K. Wheeler, Jeannette Rankin, and Mike and Maureen Mansfield.
Former First Lady Betty Babcock, who headed efforts to raise money for the recent restoration of the Capitol, said the new book is “both magnificent and beautiful.” “How fortunate we are that our forefathers created for us one of the most beautiful capitols in the United States,” she said.
The book sells for $19.95 and is available at most bookstores or can be ordered (plus shipping) directly from the Montana Historical Society by calling toll-free 1-800-243-9900. The Society Press is non-profit and self-sustaining.Order