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Gargoyles in Great Falls

Yes, it is hard to believe that there are gargoyles in Great Falls, Montana. And, they are working gargoyles!

A quest for some exercise this evening took me past the Ursuline Centre on Central Avenue and 23rd Street. The stunning architecture of Great Falls’ Ursuline Centre features gargoyles near the top of the center tower.

There are eight mythical gargoyles on the building’s rain gutter system. Some pretty unique decorations for rain gutters!

This amazing building is 100 years old – it was built in 1912 by Ursuline nuns and was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1991.

The nuns were originally sent to Montana to minister to the Native Americans. After a fire took the nuns’ schoolbuilding near St. Peters Mission (Cascade, Montana area) in 1909, they decided to move to Great Falls and construct the centre.

The Ursuline Centre has evolved and adapted with time.

At first it housed the Ursuline sisters. It has since been a boarding school for boys and girls, a junior college, a high school, an elementary school and its present day use is as a preschool daycare and retreat centre. I’ve attended several day-use meetings at the centre. There is dorm-style lodging for their overnight retreats.

There are two Ursuline sisters with connections to the building today, one lives on-site and the other lives in an off-site apartment.

The building also houses an extensive collection of antique furniture, much of which was brought to the Ursuline Centre when girls entered to become nuns. One room is filled with a very impressive collection of Native American artifacts, mostly gifts to the sisters when they worked near St. Peter’s mission.

A fourth floor art studio used by one of the sisters is kept in its original state and there is a beautiful chapel (stained glass windows that I could look at for hours) located in the building. There is a regular mass schedule for the chapel.

Tours of the building are offered – if you get the chance I’d recommend one.

There are many stories to learn about the Ursuline Centre from the architecture of the building to the people that have stayed or visited there.

This photo shows an up-close look at one of the eight gargoyles. They are quite a construction masterpiece and I’m impressed that they have been there for 100 years and are still in good shape.

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