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A DAY IN HELENA

A Visit to the State Capitol & Return to State Museum

sunny 80 °F

Good Morning;

To give Montana an assessment is unfair for what I have experienced is but a small bit of this beautiful State. Its total population is just over 1 million with a land mass ranking #4 in the US. It is rich in natural resources and abundant in natural beauty. With Yellowstone National Park in its southwestern corner, and Glacier National Park in the northern portions of the State there is good reason to revisit Montana. Its history personifies the Wild West. Its remoteness from Washington, DC and the attitude of federal lawmakers toward this territory, particularly the Native Americans lead to cruel punishment of the Indians who fought the invading white men to save their lands. It is a sad chapter in American history.

As with other western states the discovery of precious metals brought a flood of people. The arrival of the Northern Pacific Railroad in 1883, and 10 years later, the Great Northern Railroad opened up commerce in Montana. The Northern Pacific used Chinese 'coolie' labor to blast & tunnel a route through the Rocky Mountains to Puget Sound connecting Lake Superior to the Pacific Ocean. Under the visionary company president, James J. Hill the Great Northern Railroad built in 1893 a more efficient, and faster route from St. Paul, MN to Seattle, WA. In so doing, the line's freight division hauled timber from the western states. Montana contributed sheep's wool, livestock (cattle & sheep), minerals (gold, silver, zinc, copper, coal), grains and other agricultural produce, seafood, etc. St. Paul had huge flour mills to process the grains, its location on the Mississippi River was ideal for extending the commerce toward the eastern markets. Hill's vision connected the Pacific markets with the mid-West & Eastern markets. Both railways opened up the West, although the Great Northern Railroad became the dominant line in both freight and passenger service. While visiting Minneapolis/St. Paul last summer I toured the James J. Hill museum/mansion, the spectacular 36,000 sq. ft. home of Mr. Hill, the "Empire Builder".

Montana's Capitol building is situated on a hill overlooking the Helena Valley. Neoclassical Greek design (like many other Capitol buildings) it has a copper-covered dome which stands 165' topped with a statue of Liberty. The interior's theme has a strong Native American influence with murals of Indians and early settlers. I was amused at how 'laid back' the security was. The guard desk was 'unguarded'. Self-guided tour brochures were on a table and visitors were free to walk throughout the building at will. The Capitol building is very nice but not spectacular. The 3 branches of government are all located within the one building. The House has 100 members and there are 50 Senators. Term limits are 4 terms with the length of terms at 2 yrs. (House), 4 yrs. (Senate).

After spending several hours touring the Capitol and State Museum it was then about 3:30 pm. The quaint restored area downtown seemed like a nice destination. There I found a micro-brewery with outdoor seating. A local brew was my choice. I struck up a conversation with 2 couples from Saskatchewan who were on vacation with the purpose of visiting Montana Micro-Breweries. They had a booklet (1/2 " thick) listing all the establishments in MT. With each visit the breweries stamped the book on their respective page. A novel idea for beer lovers! After I found a nice Italian restaurant for dinner. In many ways I will be sad to leave the beautiful State of Montana tomorrow.

Posted by dixter 08:00 Archived in USA Tagged a day montana

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