Filed Under Helena

Donovan-Mayer House

The Northern Pacific Railroad arrived in Helena in 1883, and the town boomed. Helena’s population quadrupled from over thirty-six hundred in 1880 to almost fourteen thousand in 1890. Growth meant good-paying construction jobs for laborers like Edward Donovan, who arrived in Montana sometime before 1875. That year, he married Irish-born Johanna Doyle. By 1887, the couple and their three small children moved into this one-story house. Three blocks from the heart of downtown, the tidy, nine-hundred-square-foot residence included a parlor, living room, two bedrooms, and a kitchen. After Edward’s death in the mid-1890s, Johanna managed to buy the home. Working as a housekeeper, she lived here with her five children, who contributed to the family economy as they became old enough. In 1908, Johanna moved to Seattle. Post office employee Fred Mayer and his wife Zetta purchased the residence in 1921, where they lived with their son, Lawrence. Although large enough for a working-class family of seven in the 1890s, by the 1920s the house was too small for a middle-class family of three. In 1926, the Mayers added a sleeping porch, bedroom, and a new roof, transforming the Victorian-era home. A round window, stucco siding, and embellishments at the roofline added a modern flare. The renovated home clearly suited the family. Although Fred died in 1952, Zetta continued to live here until 1967.


Mayer House View of Front Source: iPhone SE digital image Creator: Dan R-A Date: June 2022
Donovan-Mayer House Donovan-Mayer House. Front view of the house, facing west on South Howie Street near the corner of Howie and Adams Street. Source: Montana State Historic Preservation Office Creator: Kate Hampton Date: Feb. 2005
Donovan-Mayer House Donovan-Mayer House. Side view of the house, facing south to southwest from the neighbor's yard (to the north). Source: Montana State Historic Preservation Office Creator: Kate Hampton Date: Feb. 2005


46 South Howie Street, Helena, Montana | Private


The Montana National Register Sign Program, “Donovan-Mayer House,” Historic Montana, accessed June 1, 2023,