Posted by: greatfallsgirl | November 1, 2009

Great Falls, A Great Plan

I have always found Great Falls to be one of the easiest cities to find your way around in….thanks to Paris Gibson.


Perspective Map of Great Falls, 1891

This perspective map is supposed to be accurate as far as buildings shown at the time.  I know St. Ann’s Cathedral is shown on the map…that is the one I am most familiar with since my grandfather’s house was a block away.   The way the city was laid out was beautiful, really.  One more thing to miss about home.

I found this great background information on a page maintained by Mick McClary:

“Streets and avenues were meticulously laid out on north-south and east-west axes. Central Avenue was designated a width of ninety feet, while all other streets and avenues were to be eighty feet across. Alleys 20 feet across bisected blocks, each of which was divided into 14 lots measuring 50 by 150 feet apiece. Such a regular pattern was not common to cities which sprang up on the frontier. Great Falls, unlike many other western towns, was not the spontaneous product of some sudden discovery of gold, nor the accidental result of trail herders’ efforts to reach the most recent terminus of a railroad under construction. In this instance, the city was basically the calculated creation of businessmen, and in plan and character resembled very little the typical western mining camp or cattle town. (Great Falls – A Pictoral History)

Present day Great Falls, Montana was platted in 1883 and in the spring of 1884 the settlement began. By 1887 there were rail connections, hotels, stores, lumberyards, flour mills, churches, newspapers and a school. In 1888, Gibson broke ground for the silver smelter which was located on the south bank of the Missouri River, near Giant Springs. During the 1880’s the nation was recovering from the depression of the previous decade. Railroad construction was on the upswing, the eastern agricultural markets were begging for production and the 1878 remonetization of silver ran a prfitable demand for silver being processed in Great Falls by the end of that decade. Things were good. Great Falls’ future was a shining star!



  1. It’s true – I love the “grid” of Great Falls! My only quibble is that I think it would have been more fun if the Avenues had been called something else, instead of numbers — for instance, instead of 2nd Avenue North, how about “Lincoln Avenue?” Or instead of 10th Avenue South, maybe “Montana Avenue?”

  2. I am so glad I stumbled onto your blog! I am from SC, currently living in Italy but moving to Great Falls in May. I will not lie, I am nervous about going to a small town, where it is cold and snows, all three things I am not use to. Your blog seems to have a lot of info so I will be reading all the post soon!

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