229 Spencer Street

Helena South-Central Historic District

Mining required back breaking labor and, after the easy pickings were gone, substantial capital. How did prospectors decide whether to continue working particular veins? They brought ore samples from their claims to an assay office, where they were weighed and tested for purity. In 1888, Helena boasted a federal assay office as well as three private assay companies. Among the private enterprises was the Utah Assay Office, whose owner, Jacob Gove, advertised “Fifteen Years’ Practical Experience in Utah, Colorado and Nevada.” Gove first came to Helena as a miner, and circa 1884 he built this two-story front-and-wing house on Spencer Street Alley. In 1891, Julia Otto purchased the residence, which she ran as a small lodging house. The widowed German immigrant would not have had trouble finding tenants; housing was scarce in Helena during this period. Over the years her renters included two cooks, a teacher, and a clerk. Renting rooms or running boarding houses were among the few occupations available to women like Otto, who continued to live here until 1914.

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229 Spencer Street, Helena, Montana ~ Private