We share Montana's story through our resources: art, books, artifacts, photos, and even buildings we've helped preserve.
Montana’s Original Governor’s Mansion was built as a private residence for the William Chessman family in 1888, and was home to the Peter Larson family and the Harfield Conrad family before the state purchased it (along with much of the Conrads’ furnishings) in 1913. In the video below you're invited to enjoy a tour of the mansion and take a peek into the private lives of some of its residents.
Until 1959, it served as the official residence of Montana’s governors, their families, and service staffs. Over the following decade it sometimes sat empty and sometimes held state offices, its interior subdivided with temporary walls. A citizen group initiated restoration in 1969, and returned the building to state control in 1980.
Today it appears much as it did in 1913, when Governor Samuel V. Stewart, his wife, and three young daughters moved in. Architects of the Lewis and Clark County Courthouse and many Helena homes, Hodgson, Stem and Welter designed this Queen Anne style structure, which is characterized by a fanciful, irregular outline filled with gables, turrets chimneys, balconies, and dormers.
The style is one of several romantic, nostalgic modes popular at the time America moved into industrialization and mass production. Although its ground floor rooms served the public at official functions, the upper floors were very much a family home. As Governor Stewart’s executive secretary wrote, “It is a home of democracy … an American home—a plain American home, if you please—like thousands of homes in this country.”
Cover photo credit: Jimmy Emerson via flickr.