In 1957, the engineering firm Morrison-Maierle Inc. opened an architectural entity that would later be reorganized and known as CWG Architecture + Interiors. Under the Morrison-Maierle & Associates name, the first architectural project they completed was CR Anderson Middle School. In the late 1950s, into the mid-1960s, they began an extensive seismic renovation of the Montana State Capitol. Mountain States Telephone & Telegraph, later known as Mountain Bell, became a major sustaining client. Numerous Bell-system buildings were built, added to, and remodeled over the next six decades.
In 1966, Grant Crossman, Wayne Whitney, and Richard Griffin split from the engineering parent firm and Morrison-Maierle & Associates became an independent entity. Their new office was located on Fuller Ave. in downtown Helena. During this decade they designed the Western Life Building, which became historically renowned for its significant mid-century commercial design. Other notable projects from this decade include St. Mary’s Catholic Church and Capitol High School. Jay Whitney, Ray Johnson, Jim Brown, and Jock Palmquist all started working for the firm in the 1960s. They would go on to become cornerstones in the second generation of architects.
Morrison-Maierle & Associates morphed into Crossman, Whitney Griffin, P.C. when the three partners formed the professional corporate entity. The 1970s were a busy time for the firm. Some of the major projects consisted of the original Helena Regional Airport Terminal, the award-winning St. Labre Church & Friary on the Northern Cheyenne Indian Reservation, the Highway Department Complex, and the drive-in banking complex for First National Bank in Helena. There was various work at Carroll College including the PE Center, O’Connell Hall, Guadalupe Hall, and St. Charles Hall.
In 1981, needing a place to expand, CWG moved their office from downtown Helena to the carriage house behind the TC Power Mansion, where it’s currently located. Crossman-Whitney-Griffin P.C. celebrated its 25th anniversary as a firm. Throughout this period, many historic renovations took place in downtown Helena including remodeling the old Federal Building into the Helena City County Building, remodeling of the old Jewish Synagogue into the Chancery for the Catholic Diocese of Helena, historic renovation of the Atlas block, historic restoration on portions of the Montana State Capitol, and rehabilitation of Carroll College after the train explosion in 1989. Throughout the 1980s and into the ‘90s, CWG was involved in a golf course development called Eagle Bend. In 1984, CWG’s founding father and Principal Architect Grant Crossman retired and Ray Johnson became the President of the company.
During the 1990s, Crossman-Whitney-Griffin P.C. began offering Computer Aided Drafting (CAD). This new computer technology drastically altered the way the firm operated and changed the architecture industry as a whole. The ‘90s included a great deal of commercial work such as the AAA Building, Helena Federal Credit Union, Mountain West Bank of Helena, and the nationally recognized Anaconda Golf Course. The firm began servicing a new major sustaining client, Town Pump, Inc. with design on numerous convenience stores, gas stations, casinos, hotels, and liquor stores across the state of Montana.
In the 2000s, the firm name was officially changed from Crossman-Whitney-Griffin P.C. to CWG Architects. After over 40 years of working for CWG, Ray Johnson, Jim Brown and Jock Palmquist retired between 2002 – 2010. Their dedication, hard work, great business ethics, and leadership are still part of the business model today. Bill Butler took over as the President of CWG Architects. During this decade many government and military projects were designed. In 2009, the US Veterans Benefits Building at Ft. Harrison was the first building in Helena to receive a LEED certification. In 2003, the Straw House Market was completed. This building was one of the first completely green, eco-friendly, commercial straw bale buildings in Montana. The Helena Armed Forces Reserve Center was also completed in the 2000s, it is the second-largest building in Lewis and Clark County, behind the Capitol. CWG also began pioneering a new model of modern rest areas for the Montana Department of Transportation, which would lead to more innovation and refinement of these rest areas over the next two decades.
Long-time Principal Architect Bill Butler announced retirement after 37 years with CWG and the fourth generation of ownership began with Tony Perpignano taking over the role as President and Kory Kennaugh and Jason Egeline becoming directors. For a small firm to thrive with multiple generations of owners is unique and it’s attributed to the strong company values that have been passed down throughout the decades. During this time, services were expanded to include structural engineering and interior design. In 2017, CWG Architects celebrated their 60th anniversary. Throughout this decade, CWG continued to specialize in state-of-the-art rest areas, work on numerous K-12 schools, MSU-N’s Diesel Technology Center, multiple Town Pump convenience stores, and Carroll College projects.
CWG has begun a new decade with a repeat client base of over 90%. That figure shows the value of longstanding relationships and quality design services. As CWG moves into our 70th anniversary, we continue to value people, teamwork, and passion as our core values. In just the first year of this decade, we have already completed our third expansion of the Helena Regional Airport, designed numerous Opportunity Banks, Town Pump convenience stores and casinos, continued to modernize rest-areas, and finished multiple residential projects. As the state continues to grow, we look forward to serving the citizens of Montana. We are excited to see what projects and expansion will continue happening throughout this decade.