Great Falls High School Chronicle – Part 3

THE MIDDLE YEARS 1930 – 1997, THREE ADDITIONS, THE MONEY, AND THE ARCHITECT’S DESIGNS

This is the third in a series of informational articles that focus primarily on the architectural history of Great Falls High School and campus. The information has been gathered from available records. Missing information may be confirmed upon further research. I will be interested in obtaining that information from you if known.

In a few cases, such as what I stated in PART TWO, are as I remember. I am interested in any suggested corrections or happy personal tidbits that expand the history.

Another tidbit from me is that I sincerely liked going to school at GFHS for the three years when it was a grade 10 – 12 high school with 3,000 students. Well, that three years is minus one day when asked by my favorite teacher to leave because my shirt was not tucked in. (At least that is the way I remember it). No matter, I was very anxious to return as soon as the next school bell rang because my previous work day started a bit too early (and my dirt bike did not start) when my Dad put a 16-pound sledge hammer in my hand and told me to break a hole in a concrete wall where he needed an opening for a stair. I was easily convinced that school lunch and drafting class was a much better career builder.

Part Two explained the funding, design. and construction process for the original GFHS building and Memorial Stadium through 1930 when they were built. It was designed to serve 1900 students and was constructed for $1.15 million. ($526 per student). It was an impressive build during the start of the depression and greatly helped the regional economy. A talented team of Great Falls architects and civil engineers were hired who then collaborated with a Minneapolis architectural firm to augment the team. Many construction companies and craftsmen were kept busy on the 1 ½ year construction.

Part Three will talk about the evolution of the campus between when built in 1930 to the facilities that were constructed during 1997. During that period there have been three major additions and window replacement to the original building.

“Part Three will talk about the evolution of the campus between when built in 1930 to the facilities that were constructed during 1997. During that period there have been three major additions and window replacement to the original building.”

The first major project began in 1954 when a second floor was added to the southeast corner of the school above the Art, Journalism and Machine Shop classrooms to accommodate the expanded choir, orchestra and band facilities by the local architectural firm of McIver, Hess & Haugsjaa established in 1953 (9). Angus Vaughn McIver, born in Great Falls, MT in1892, was a 1910 graduate of Great Falls High School and the University of Michigan, whose Montana architectural license number was “6” and was issued in 1918, one year after Montana licensing began. William J. Hess, born in 1914, was a graduate of Montana State College earning a B.S. architectural degree in 1937. Knute S. Haugsjaa, born in 1915, was a graduate of North Dakota State College with a B.S. architectural degree in 1939. The second-floor addition was a congruent design and featured the reuse of original parapet caps and crenels from the existing first floor. Construction contracts were awarded in March of 1954 and work was completed later that year at a cost of $110,400. (14)

The second major project was the $215,000 three-story addition designed in 1963 by McIver and Hess Architects. It is located at the east termination of vertical East-West “T” leg adjacent to 20th Street and created classroom space on the first floor for Homemaking, Commercial, and History, on the second floor for the Library, and on the third floor for Chemistry and Biology. The architect’s adherence to original detailing was exacting, well executed and included several of the brick bonds used on the original structure. The addition created a new “Main Entrance” to the school along the originally established east – west axis. (15)

The original windows were a combination of 12/12 and 9/9 wood double-hung sash. The original wood window frames were found to be rotted through, allowing cold air to enter the building. (16) Beginning in 1966 and programmed as a five-year project, the windows were replaced with Kalwall insulated translucent panels and a single aluminum tempered glass operating light. Budget was $100,000. The windows substantially reduced the transparency and natural light to all rooms of the school.

The third addition, designed in 1975 by the local firm of Davidson – Kuhr Architects, is a nondescript 120’ x 100’ two – story independently sited masonry Industrial Arts building located between the southwest side of the school and Memorial Stadium. It is connected to the school via an enclosed sky bridge from the school’s main east – west hallway adjacent to the Auditorium foyer. When built, the building effectively closed the north-south open commons area in the middle of the campus between 2nd Ave South and 5th Ave. South that included flag court, west side of old school building, senior stair, stadium, field house, and south campus.

Part 4 will discuss the years from the fourth major addition to when the last major work on the campus was completed. Please stay tuned.

Summarized by Darrell A. Swanson

GFHS Class of 1965, Architect/Planner, Tax Payer, Citizen He can be reached at darrells@swansonarchitects.com or 406.599.6910

9 National Park Service 10 “Great Falls High School.” Great Falls High School Bison Football. No date. Accessed 2011-05-06.

14 Wilmot, Paul. “1920s Proved to Be Eventful in Great Falls, Around Region.” Great Falls Tribune. April 11, 2010.

15 Wilmot, Paula. “See How You Fared in Our Area History Quiz of the 1930s.” Great Falls Tribune. May 9, 2010. 16″Find Giant Powder Hidden in Manhole.” Associated Press. August 6, 1929.

24 Prep Notebook.” Great Falls Tribune. April 15, 2003. 25 Les Johnson o/b/o Amanda Johnson v. Great Falls Public Schools. Final Order. HRC Case No. 9504007138. Human Rights Commission of the State of Montana. September 10, 1998, p. 5-6. Accessed 2011-05-06.

Darrell Swanson
Darrell Swanson
Darrell Swanson is a graduate of Great Falls High School and principal at Swanson Architects.

6 COMMENTS

  1. Great Falls High truly is an iconic piece of architecture in Montana, and it is sad to witness the lack of commitment exhibited by the school administrators to understand what that means. Their planning is severely misdirected and uniformed and will most likely jeopardize the school’s listing on the National Register of Historic Places, something they ardently fought against. In my opinion, Bad advice from out-of-towners, Bad Judgement and a poor use of taxpayer’s money. The only solution is a competition of ideas judged by independent architects and planners outside of the crony-culture of Great Falls.

  2. l have always liked the idea of a competition of design ideas. Difficult to organize and finance and would need the blessing of the district. Which would not happen.
    At this point it be will be judged by the tax paying Citizens rather than an elite group of architects and planners from outside of Great Falls. I wonder what the GFPS web site comments are about the district’s third proposal. I have not been able to see them after several requests. PART 5 will show the schemes that have been presented by the district and should help flush out whether they are worthy.

  3. When I moved from Bozeman to great falls. I realized one thing about great falls. That No matter how you slice it up great falls is a city only someone who was born there could really like. With belt mountains to the east and the Rockies to the west it sits between them getting battered by bitter cold winds to the north. Nothing to block the south comes the chinook winds. I’ve been outside when it was 20 below zero and then shot 42 above in seven minutes. Bitterly cold and windy most of the time just drives me insane. I left great falls in the fall of 1994. I do not miss it at all!!!

  4. Nothing but a bunch of drunken bums live there. High crime rate. No jobs. It’s never clean, garbage everywhere. Stinks like someone pooped in the whole town!!!

  5. the Rockies to the west it sits between them getting battered by bitter cold winds to the north. Nothing to block the south comes the chinook winds. I’ve been outside when it was 20 below zero and then shot 42 above in seven minutes. Bitterly cold and windy most of the time just drives me insane. I left great falls in the fall of 1994. I do not miss it at all!!!
    Read more at lvs788

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