Mount Helena Historic District

Mount Helena stands out “grandly and cleancut,” a dramatic backdrop for the city that has grown in its shadow. Since picnickers first enjoyed its quiet refuge during mining camp days, Mount Helena has served the community. First miners searched in vain for its minerals. Settlers next stripped its slopes of timber and quarried its limestone. In 1883, residents by the hundreds trekked up the mountainside to watch the railroad, smoking slowly westward across the valley to Helena. Then on November 12, 1894, a huge bonfire at the summit lit the night sky, confirming Helena’s victory as state capital. Near the century’s turn, forest fires further decimated the near-barren mountain. A city park was proposed in 1898 and on Arbor Day in 1899, Helena schoolchildren armed with baskets of evergreen seedlings hiked the lightning-scorched slopes. Accompanied by Fred Kuphal’s violin, they began reforestation. From the ashes also came the “1906 Mount Helena Trail,” actually constructed by the city in 1903. Far-sighted city fathers envisioned “a wind-blown seed, and inch of shade, a little snow, and peace ... to make a beautiful tree upon the mountain.” And so it was in 1906 that through the cooperative efforts of the Helena Improvement Society and the newly created U.S. Forest Service, 30,000 seedlings were hand-planted upon the eastern slope. Many still flourish. Today the city’s century-old invitation still stands: “Do not deny yourself the health and pleasure of the ... delightful walk. Go all and go often.”

Images

Map

Mount Helena City Park, Helena, Montana ~ Public