Mollie Byrnes House

Helena South-Central Historic District

Twin towers frame a central bay in this marvelous example of Victorian-era flamboyance attributed to local architect W. T. Welter. The exuberant design mirrors the life of its first owner, one of several wealthy madams who vied to dominate Helena’s red light empire. Mollie Byrnes, also known as Belle Crafton, built this residence circa 1887. Its distinctive architecture was similar to that of “The Castle,” Mollie’s elegant bordello, which was two blocks west under what is now Cruse Avenue. Photographs of Mollie’s heavily draped and wall-papered parlor reveal that she surrounded herself with all the fashionable trappings of the 1890s. Attempting to distance herself from her former lifestyle, Mollie sold “The Castle” in 1899, but she never gained middle-class respectability and died of acute alcoholism in 1900 at the age of forty-two. After Mollie’s death, the building served as an owner’s residence and boarding house. This vintage landmark luckily survived 1970s urban renewal and, now converted to four apartments, has thus earned primary significance as the last link to Helena’s bawdy south side red light district.



212 State Street, Helena, Montana ~ Private