Helena South-Central Historic District
Irish immigrant James M. Ryan owned a number of local rental properties, including this appealing wood-frame apartment building constructed as a duplex between 1885 and 1888. Rapid growth during the 1880s prompted neighborhood tenants to take in boarders, adding income and easing a troublesome housing shortage. This building provides an excellent example of the tenant/boarder relationship in its mix of both professional and working-class residents. In 1889 and 1890, these included a U.S. mineral surveyor, the Helena Herald city editor, a retired military officer, a blacksmith, a dressmaker, several clerks, and two domestics. When the 1935 earthquakes claimed the original brick veneer, shiplap siding added to the exterior walls was carefully cut, preserving the original arched windows. The entry vestibule to the two modern upper units, staircases, high ceilings, and several doors remain from the former era, lending period ambience. Modern residents still benefit from Ryan’s foresight in providing tenants attractive, well-located, and comfortable living quarters.