HELENA – Tucked into the northwest corner of Montana’s State Capitol you’ll find its cornerstone, set July 4, 1899.

“They had Bell and Kent, the architects, make this specific cornerstone so the north face would have the state seal on it and the west face would have the date of July 4, 1899,” explained Montana Historical Society Program Specialist Deb Mitchell.

The construction of the state capitol had started the prior year and when the cornerstone was ready it was laid in its place of importance — but that wasn’t all.

“What’s interesting is they put a metal box inside the cornerstone that is a time capsule of sorts,” said Mitchell, “And inside that time capsule they put 22 mementos of Montana history.”

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Three years later the building was complete and July Fourth was once again recognized as the day to celebrate and to dedicate Montana’s new state capitol in 1902.

Residents lined the streets in celebration and those who were at the capitol for the dedication made for standing room only inside the new building.

“We all know the weather in Montana is very unpredictable and so that particular day it was very cold and blustery and it was also due to rain so they took all the festivities inside,” said Mitchell.

Celebrating the completion of the capitol building also meant putting to rest the question of just which city would be the state capital.

“After the Anaconda – Helena dispute as to where the state capital was going to be, that basically cemented the fact that the state capital was going to be in Helena,” Mitchell said.

And 115 years later, this Fourth of July marks another milestone in the history of the People’s House.

 

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