Council of Independent Colleges Historic Campus Architecture Project


St. Charles Hall

Click on image titles for larger views.
Institution Name: Carroll College (MT)
Original/Historic Place Name: Mount Saint Charles College
Location on Campus: 1601 N. Benton Ave., Helena MT 59625
Date(s) of Construction and Designer(s):
1909original construction Von Herbulis, A. O.
1917-1918addition Unknown
1923-1924addition Unknown
1935damage by earthquake; subsequent repair Unknown
Type of Place: Individual building
Style(s): (Glossary)
Foundation: concrete
Walls: red porphyry (local stone quarried from neighboring mountains)
Roof: steel; ceramic tiles
ca. 1909library
ca. 1909classrooms (preparatory school and college, including laboratories)
ca. 1909-present (2007)residence hall (originally boy's residence, currently co-ed)
ca. 1918gymnasium
ca. 2004-present (2007)classrooms
ca. 2004-present (2007)chapel
ca. 2004-present (2007)academic department building (art studios, performing arts center, music labs, ceramic lab)

Significance: education, history, religion
Landmark designation:
Narrative: see below
References: see below

Architect A.W. Von Herbulis of Washington, D.C. designed St. Helena Cathedral and Mount Saint Charles College. The original college building was to be five stories, 180 feet in width, and 55 feet in depth. The building would be the first of three, with the other two being built when needed. On June 16, 1909, Bishop Carroll broke ground for the first building, which was to be constructed of red porphyry, a native stone, with a steel roof and a concrete and marble stairway. It would also be the first fireproof building in the Northwest.

The laying of the cornerstone is one of the more important events in the construction of a building. As it happened, in September 1909, the President of the United States, William Howard Taft, was traveling through Montana on his way to Washington state. While he was in Helena, on Sept. 27, 1909, the President attended the Montana State Fair, and as he was returning to the city the President was asked if he would assist in laying a cornerstone for a small Catholic college. President Taft graciously agreed to Bishop Carroll's request, and as his car turned off Benton Avenue onto Lyndale Avenue to go to the college, the Secret Service in the car behind lost the biggest President of the United States. While the Secret Service frantically searched for their charge, President Taft thus assisted Bishop Carroll in laying the cornerstone for the College. In a short speech, the Bishop said, "The aim of Capital Hill College will be to give the young men of Montana a thorough, liberal education which will fit them for leadership in any vocation they may choose and at the same time so surround them with a religious atmosphere that they may ever follow conscience as their king." President Taft responded in part, "It gives me great pleasure to participate in the laying of cornerstones of institutions of learning, whether of church or state. The College you are building here will be a blessing to Helena and to the whole State of Montana."

The first blueprints for the college show the name St. James College. However, it was at this time that Pope Pius X issued an encyclical commemorating St. Charles Borromeo, the saintly and scholarly archbishop who first promoted the idea of a Diocesan college at the Council of Trent 300 years earlier. Bishop Carroll decided to make St. Charles Borromeo the patron of the College and gave it the name Mount St. Charles College. The College would be known as Mount St. Charles until 1932, when on March 30th, the name would be changed to Carroll College in honor of its founder.

In 1917- 1918 an addition to the north side of the original building was constructed. This building housed the gymnasium and the Science Department. Three floors of dorm rooms were planned to be built above the gym, but this never happened. In 1923-1924 a building housing the chapel, the library, and more residents' rooms, was added to the south side of the original building. The construction of these two additions finished the original plans for the College. Then in 1924 a convent (St. Albert's) was built behind the original buildings to house Dominican Sisters from Germany.

In 1935, an earthquake hit Helena and damaged St. Charles Hall. Repairs were made which changed some of the original architecture. Stones that fell from the building were used to construct an observatory in 1937.

I. Bibliographic sources:

Greytak, William. "'Jack's Castle': From Dreams to Reality (An Analysis of Four Score and more Years of Challenge and Success)." Paper presented in honor of St. Charles Borromeo, patron of Carroll College, November 4, 1991. Carroll College, Helena, MT.

II. Location of other data:
University: Special Collections

Contact us / About Site / About CIC
© 2006
Council of Independent Colleges
One Dupont Circle, Ste. 320
Washington, DC
All rights reserved
Last update: November 2006