Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Paris Gibson Junior High Blows Up

Central High School in Great Falls opened in 1896. It took a creative community three years to build it. To prepare the uneven ground, sheepherders drove a herd of sheep around the site one hundred times trampling down the dirt. Huge logs floated to Great Falls on the Missouri River were shaved flat on all four sides and became the beams for the floor supports, attic framework, and stairways. The massive blocks of sandstone that form the walls came from a quarry near Helena and rest on a foundation sixteen feet thick in some places.

From National Register of Historic Places listing
Great Falls judged Central the best school west of the Mississippi. Its crowning feature, a huge Norman-style clock tower, arose out of the central part of the building. However, it was so heavy that it finally became unsafe, and the school took it down in 1916. According to locals, the custodian and his family lived in the school’s attic. A sink with running water and wallpaper on the walls made the apartment quite homey. The daughter, however, was embarrassed to live in the school’s attic. She would leave home early in the morning, walk away from the building before the other students began to arrive, and then walk to school with her classmates. In 1913, a brick annex with an auditorium and gymnasium doubled the size of the school. From 1930 to the 1970s, the school served as Paris Gibson Junior High. In 1977, it became the Paris Gibson Square Museum of Art. But just before this adaptive reuse, movie makers blew up the annex in a controlled demolition for a scene in Telefon, starring Charles Bronson and Lee Remick.


  1. Great History. I attended in about 1953 and 54. I don't think I had that much appreciation for it at the time. Beth Christensen, Tracy, Finch.

  2. Some of my best memories attended 7th grade there in 67 or 68

  3. I watch it being blown up from my mom's office down town!!

    Troy Stevens

  4. I believe it was 1949 when I attended 7th grade there. It was an excellent school with teachers that stayed after school to help a transfer student from California catch up. It was an impressive building for that young girl.

  5. My Great Grandmother Agnes Gray went to high school there. Thanks for sharing this history.