First Building Constructed for the School of Mines
Main Hall was the first building constructed for the Montana State School of Mines. Originally known as the “School of Mines building,” its cornerstone was laid on December 29, 1896. Designed in the Renaissance Revival style by John C. Paulsen, one of the Rocky Mountain region’s most prominent architects, it set the standard for the rest of the buildings to come. Upon its completion, it was considered to be the most substantial and solidly built public building in the state.
Featured above the second story windows are five reliefs of men who were pioneers of mining-related sciences: Benjamin Franklin (physics), Robert Hunt (geology), Ferdinand Gaetzschman (mineralogy), John Percy (metallurgy), and Alexander Holley (chemistry). Original interior finishings include an open granite stairway with brass railing and wrought iron balustrades framed by polished granite columns. The building also features tunnels connecting to the neighboring buildings.
The school opened its doors to its first students on September 18, 1900. The heating system proved inadequate that first winter, but by the next September a steam heating plant had been installed. As the campus grew and more buildings were added, the building was renamed Main Hall in 1919.