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Great Falls is called the "The Electric City" because there are five hydroelectric dams here on the Missouri River.

Great Falls — The Electric City

We have a love/hate relationship with Great Falls. We enjoyed our visit but found that: (1) it’s windy … turns out that Great Falls is the fourth windiest city in the U.S; (2) it’s overrun with bars and casinos …  no wonder billboards remind the locals that Montana has the highest drunk driving rate in the nation; (3) it’s economy appears to be teetering on the razor's edge … Wal-Mart is the city’s third largest employer and (4) it is Ground Zero … some 200 long range nuclear missiles are buried in silos outside of town. Putting all these negatives aside, we enjoyed the historic downtown, green parks, museums and fascinating Lewis and Clark legacy.

The downtown core is filled with century old buildings with terra cotta flourishes that range from the opulent to the whimsical. We couldn’t help but smile when we saw the winged tires on the Lee Forest Garage. Click here for a larger view.

The elaborate gabled pediment on the Thisted Building is another example of the terra cotta flourishes found on many of the downtown buildings. Down the block we got our usual java fix at the Cool Beans Coffee Pub.

The Victorian era Beehive Store once sold everything from glassware and crockery to groceries.

The sleek streamline Art Modern Bus Depot was built in 1947 for the Greyhound Bus Co.

These theatrical terra cotta faces grace the 1913 Beaux-Arts Pantages Theater. The building now houses a drug store and other businesses.  Down the street the rival Liberty Theatre was converted to office and retail space in 1978.

In the center of town this statue of Charles M. Russell, the cowboy turned artist. Charlie, as the locals refer to him, adopted Great Falls as his home more than a century ago.

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