Upper Reeder's Alley
The steep, rocky hillside and existing log buildings on this end of West Main Street did not stop mason Louis Reeder from expanding his brick tenement complex in the 1880s. Reeder’s masonry skills and clever architectural talents are especially evident in the three buildings that comprise the upper alley. The largest portion features two-story wings on the east and west and a homey log cabin sandwiched between units, all gathered under an uneven roofline. Stone quarried nearby and local brick provided building materials. The alley’s bricks were not, as legend has it, from the St. Louis brickyard of artist Charles M. Russell’s father. The Parker-Russell Mining & Manufacturing Company was a leading maker of industrial fire brick, but Reeder’s Alley contains no fire bricks. The alley’s soft, powdery bricks are the same local product found in other early Helena buildings. Also contrary to local legend, the alley never housed prisoners, although the city jail was once located across Park Avenue. The alley did, however, from the 1870s to the 1950s, host colorful and sometimes eccentric characters including miners, laborers, musicians, artists, and, finally, elderly pensioners.