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Cascade County Courthouse History

In 1891, the Cascade County Commissioners purchased the entire block of Second and Third Avenue North between Fourth and Fifth Streets in Great Falls for a courthouse. In 1900, the taxpayers approved a bond issue for $200,000 to pay for courthouse construction.

Excavation began in February 1901 and the cornerstone was laid on November 9, 1901. The cornerstone included a time capsule which included a history of the county, a copy of the act forming the county, lists of county officials, a history of Company A (Montana’s first U.S. veterans from the Spanish-American War), photographs, newspapers, maps, coins, and an American flag. The cornerstone weighed 2,000 pounds.

The Cascade County Courthouse was dedicated on July 4, 1903. According to the building architects, N.H. Black and Frank Longstaff, the style is “pure French Renaissance with slight modifications.” Architectural historians refer to it as “Renaissance Revival.” Still grand today, the courthouse is constructed of buff sandstone quarried six miles southwest of Great Falls. Massive, front entrance pillars are polished granite. The roof and dome are copper. A 15-foot statute of Lady Justice stands atop the done, which is 35 feet high. To the base of the Lady Justice, the courthouse measures 116 feet.

Among the many magnificent interior features are Italian ceramic mosaic tile floors, Corinthian columns made of Tennessee marble, beveled glass windows, marble stairs and wainscoting, and iron stair casings and balustrades. There are four marble niches in the rotunda.

The original south lawn canons were removed during wartime scrap drives, but replaced in 1965 with civil war replicas.

Photos courtesy of Judge Gregory G. Pinski and Judge John Kutzman.

Source: A Short History of Cascade County’s Courthouse by Judge Kenneth R. Neill (Ret.) (2003)

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