It’s the centerpiece of campus, commanding the Oval at the University of Montana. It appears in historic black-and-white photographs, and on today’s postcards of Missoula.

Of the city’s many icons, Main Hall is surely high on the list.

The University of Montana was established in 1893 and Main Hall is the oldest building on campus. It was designed by the well-known Missoula architect A.J. Gibson in the Richardsonian-Romanesque style and opened in 1899.

According to the Historical Museum at Fort Missoula, the cornerstone was in place in 1898 during the university’s dedication ceremony. At the ceremony, corn, oil and water — representing plenty, joy and peace — were poured over the cornerstone.

More than 114 years later, Main Hall maintains its grandeur throughout the seasons. It houses many of the university’s top administrators, including UM President Royce Engstrom and Provost Perry Brown. Alumni and students gather on its steps each Homecoming for singing and reminiscing.

It also provides pleasant music to those on the go. High in the belfry, the school’s carillon of 47 bells endures deep winter freezes and summer’s heat. The music that pours from the tower caters to the seasons and, from time to time, gives a nod to popular culture.

The carillon weighs more than 10 tons, and was cast by Vanbergen Auxiliary Mechanisms. The bells were installed in 1953 when the Korean War came to an end. Each inscribed with their own dedication, the bells remember those who served and sacrificed in America’s wars. It remains one of the only traditional carillons in the Pacific Northwest.

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Reach UM’s iconic Main Hall on Mountain Line BOLT! route 1, 8 and 12.

Reporter Martin Kidston can be reached at 523-5260, or at martin.kidston@missoulian.com.

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