Filed Under Helena

Fire Tower

Helena Historic District

The welfare of the community depended upon this prominent landmark, strategically placed atop the town’s most prominent hill. Fire was the grim reaper that stalked all western mining camps, and Last Chance Gulch was no exception. Hastily built log cabins, crowded together along the streets, created a constant hazard. In the mining camp at Last Chance, wind whipping through the gulch was an added danger. The wind could carry burning embers to distant neighborhoods; every miner’s cabin had a fire bucket hanging within easy reach. Citizens organized a warning system and built the first fire tower here in 1868. Volunteers took turns scanning the gulch for wisps of smoke where none should be. Ironically, fire destroyed the first tower. This structure, constructed using millwright techniques of beams bolted together, took its place in 1874. The city added a guardroom and bell in 1886. For many years the bell rang the evening curfew for Helena’s youngsters. The “Guardian of the Gulch” served the community for nearly seventy years and has become a symbol of Helena’s early history and resilient citizens.

Images

Fire Tower
Fire Tower Fire Tower, facing west from Tower Hill with Mount Helena in background. Source: MontanaPictures.net Creator: MontanaPictures.net Date: Apr. 2011
Fire Tower
Fire Tower Fire Tower (PAc 91-51 South Central Helena Roll18 F01). Overview of the Fire Tower from below Tower Hill near the Bluestone House, facing northwest. B&W. Source: Montana State Historic Preservation Office from the Photograph Archives at the Montana Historical Society Creator: Photographer unidentified Date: 1981
Fire Tower
Fire Tower Fire Tower (PAc 91-51 South Central Helena Roll18 F02). Rear view of the Fire Tower access and signage, facing west on Tower Hill overlooking Cruse Avenue (South) and Mount Helena is situated in the background. Winter scene. B&W. Source: Montana State Historic Preservation Office from the Photograph Archives at the Montana Historical Society Creator: Photographer unidentified Date: 1981

Location

South Cruse Avenue, Helena, Montana | Private

Metadata

The Montana National Register Sign Program, “Fire Tower,” Historic Montana, accessed March 1, 2024, https://historicmt.org/items/show/704.