Explore the historic districts in Great Falls this summer

Great Falls Railroad District

This summer’s conference will be held in one of Great Falls’ five historic districts - The Railroad District. The Civic Center, where the 2016 conference will be held, sits in the district that once served the bustling railroad freight and passenger business in Great Falls. According to the Great Falls Montana Railroad Historic District Walking Tour brochure, “The district remains a historically and architecturally cohesive reminder of significant forces that helped to shape Great Falls.”


North Montana State Fairgrounds District


Perhaps the most interesting district is the North Montana State Fairgrounds District. Fair-goers have gathered in Great Falls since before the turn of the century, but it was not until 1926 that a movement was initiated to create a permanent fairground facility to “forward the upward progress of agriculture in north central Montana.” Originally the North Montana State Fairground, the exposition buildings became the first National Register Historic District in Great Falls. The majority of the exhibition buildings, as well as the grounds, show design influences from the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago. Unlike Chicago’s disposable city, these buildings are permanent and display minimal Classical Revival influences.


Three Art Deco buildings also play an important role in the district with influences originating at another World’s Fair, the 1925 Paris Exposition. After 1934, the newly formed firm of Cottier and Herrington assumed design responsibilities at the expanding fairground. They introduced the new Deco style with the Administration Building in 1934. The modern movement exerted its full influence with the execution of the Mercantile Building in 1937 and the Fine Arts Building in 1938. Because of their open design, the exhibition buildings have been able to keep pace with the ever-changing whims of progress with little change. 

2016 CONFERENCE HEADQUARTERS. The Great Falls Civic Center is an excellent example of the twentieth century Art Deco style on a monumental scale. The Civic Center was built in the 1930s under President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s Works Progress Administration. Photo provided by City of Great Falls.

2016 CONFERENCE HEADQUARTERS. The Great Falls Civic Center is an excellent example of the twentieth century Art Deco style on a monumental scale. The Civic Center was built in the 1930s under President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s Works Progress Administration. Photo provided by City of Great Falls.

The Fine Arts Building is another example on the fairgrounds. Photo by Ben Chovanak.

The Fine Arts Building is another example on the fairgrounds. Photo by Ben Chovanak.

The Mercantile building shows off a great example of Art Deco design at the Montana ExpoPark, formerly known as the fairgrounds. Photo by Ben Chovanak.

The Mercantile building shows off a great example of Art Deco design at the Montana ExpoPark, formerly known as the fairgrounds. Photo by Ben Chovanak.

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