Helena Historic District

The crooked path of Last Chance Gulch, weaving between original mining claims, memorializes Helena’s chaotic beginning as a gold camp in 1864. Within a year of the placer gold discovery, a boomtown flourished, with homes and businesses in tents and log cabins. Fire was both constant threat and regular scourge. In 1869, the downtown burned, replaced over the next few years by brick and granite business houses. Helena survived after the placer gold played out and population declined, because pioneer entrepreneurs had made it a financial center. Helena claimed the territorial capital from declining Virginia City in 1874, and the following year received one of the nation’s five U.S. Assay Offices—acknowledgment of extensive hard-rock gold and silver mining that replaced placer mining. The arrival of the Northern Pacific Railroad in 1883, and Helena’s election as state capital in 1894, confirmed the town’s survival. Downtown buildings in a great variety of architectural styles arose, many since lost to fires, earthquakes, and urban renewal. The panic of 1893 and end of guaranteed federal silver purchases slowed Helena’s early momentum, but the gold camp that survived grew gradually as a business and government center.

307 Clarke Street

Exquisite leaded and beveled glass, magnificent classical columns, a denticulated porch frieze, and arched windows with stenciled heads embellish both this 1906 Queen Anne style home and its next door neighbor. The gentle roof pitch is characteristic…

326 Clarke Street

An open front porch frames the entry of this dwelling, built as a single family home in the early 1880s when the neighborhood was newly developed. John C. Curtin and his family were in residence here from 1889 to 1898. Curtin and a brother, Arthur P.…

40 North Benton Avenue

A square shape, low-pitched roof, wide bracketed eaves, and heavy window crowns suggest that this Italianate style apartment building may date to the late 1870s. Attorney George Bleecker, Mrs. Sarah Martin, and bookkeeper John Street, the first…

203 North Rodney Street

An early one-story wooden dwelling stood here by 1884, replaced by 1888 with a two-story brick residence, set slightly back from the street. The home soon found itself ensconced in a busy commercial district. Neighbors included saloons, grocery…

17-19 South Rodney Street

In September 1887, the Helena Weekly Herald noted "nine first-class brick residences" under construction on South Rodney Street. Among them were three nearly identical duplexes, called Galen Estates after one of the development's…

220 Fifth Avenue

The elegant Second Empire style, rare in Helena, is beautifully expressed in this three-story residence built circa 1880 during Helena’s stint as territorial capital. Jerome and Marcia Norris, longtime resident owners, counted Helena’s social elite…

555 Fuller Avenue

Downtown Helena expanded in the 1940s at its north end where there had previously been little development. This two-story Art Moderne-inspired office building reflects the industrial, streamlined architectural trends of the period. E. B. Benson of…

Alden Block

Courthouse Square was already the busy seat of county government when the territorial capital moved to Helena in 1875. Isaac Alden, clerk of the Territorial Supreme Court and later state court commissioner, financed this circa 1880 multi-purpose…

Edward C. Babcock Mansion

Locally quarried blue-gray granite complements the shingled upper stories in this commanding nineteenth-century home. Both this residence and the one next door are stellar examples of the eclectic Shingle style. The wide porch and asymmetry are Queen…

Baldwin / Grady House

An octagonal tower, decorative brickwork, one-story open porch, and hipped roof identify this appealing Queen Anne style residence built circa 1883. That year launched a period of neighborhood expansion and prosperity, kindled when the tracks of the…

William M. Bishop House

This early gable-front-and-wing residence was constructed in 1878 by postal clerk William F. Bishop for $2,000. Mrs. Margaret Bishop ran a dressmaking business from the home and took in boarders in the late 1880s. Cottage industries and…

Boston Block

Historic maps and early directories reveal that this splendid business block was constructed circa 1890. Morris Auerbach, in business with Israel L. Israel and Adolph Marks during the 1890s, was the original occupant. Their Boston Clothing Company…

Boyer/Hawkins Residence

Newlyweds Isaac Boyer and Carrie Feldberg Boyer moved to their new home within a year of their 1907 marriage. The refined, hipped-roof residence may well have been built to order. The two-story house features popular Colonial Revival style details,…

May Butler House

Irish-born William Butler came to Montana in 1866, worked in Helena as a lather and carpenter, and mined at nearby Butler (now Austin). He paid the county $50 in 1875 for this land, formerly a mining claim. In 1879 Butler brought his bride,…

Byrns Residence

Longtime Helena saloon proprietor Michael Byrns, his wife Emma, and their daughter Mary were the first residents of this early West Side home, built circa 1878. Emma’s “uniform kindness and lovely traits of character” touched so many that the entire…

California Wine House

Most of Helena’s earliest commercial buildings fell victim to the fires that plagued the gulch. This simple 1860s commercial building, originally a single story of stone construction, was a notable exception, surviving a disastrous conflagration in…

C.W. Cannon Building

Prominent Helena investor and real estate developer Charles W. Cannon commissioned the firm of Wallace and Thornborgh to construct this building for $10,000. Completed in 1890, the building reflects expansion and urbanization in the downtown area…

Caretaker's Cabin

According to reminiscences of the Butts family, builders of the Pioneer Cabin next door, two cabins stood on this lot in 1865. William Davenport likely built one for his family and the William H. Parkinsons occupied the other. Sallie Davenport, later…

Central School (Demolished)

Construction of Helena’s first permanent schoolhouse began in 1875 after relocation of the old mining camp cemetery that originally occupied these grounds. Opening its doors in January, 1876, it was the first public school in Montana Territory with…

Chessman Flats

Helena entrepreneur William Chessman built these exemplary Queen Anne style townhouse apartments in 1891 while in residence across Sixth Avenue at 304 North Ewing. Gables, bays, and a rounded turret handsomely demonstrate the architectural exuberance…

Colorado Building

The Colorado Building is a rich illustration of Helena’s commercial blossoming during the early twentieth century. The Mountain States Telephone and Telegraph Company built the structure in 1922, thereby completing this block in the town’s more…

Peter J. Connor Residence

Originally a combination residence and boarding house/hotel named the Farmer's Home, this survivor of early Helena recalls the days when the territorial capital was a busy commercial hub. In 1879, Peter J. Connor opened the Farmer’s Home on what…

William C. Crum Family Residence

The free-wheeling territorial period was drawing to a close when this stylish Queen Anne style residence was built circa 1889. Attributed to prolific Helena architect George Appleton, the lovely Victorian-era home is a classic example of his…

Dunphy Block

Reputedly the first two-story building on Main Street and one of Helena’s few remaining structures dating to the 1860s, this stone building originally housed offices and furnished lodgings. Miner and prominent merchant E. M. Dunphy purchased the…

Eybel's Cafe

Montana’s leading architectural firm of Link and Haire designed this attractive building for Charles George Eybel in 1922. Stuccoed walls and a raftered cornice along the roofline, reminiscent of the Spanish Colonial Style, combine with a smooth…

Fashion Livery and Boarding Stable

A probate judge deeded brothers Anton and Martin Holter this property in 1872. The prominent and wealthy Holters operated milling, hardware, real estate, and construction companies. The Holters set up a lumber yard here, which they operated until the…

Federal Reserve Bank

The Helena branch of the Federal Reserve Bank opened in 1921, the result of lobbying by Norman B. Holter and other farsighted local businessmen. It distinguished Helena as the smallest town in the country to host such a bank. When the 1935…

Feldberg House

A constant threat of fire during the 1870s prompted residents to move away from the gulch and settle in this outlying neighborhood. Merchant Jacob Feldberg and wife Emma, respected members of Helena’s once-dynamic Jewish community, built one of the…

Fifth Avenue Apartment House

Entrepreneur T. H. Kleinschmidt was the original owner of this early Italianate style dwelling, built as investment property circa 1884. Kleinschmidt, three times elected mayor of Helena, had diverse local business interests including utilities,…

Fire Tower

The welfare of the community depended upon this prominent landmark, strategically placed atop the town’s most prominent hill. Fire was the grim reaper that stalked all western mining camps, and Last Chance Gulch was no exception. Hastily built log…

First Baptist Church of Montana

Helena’s Baptist congregation organized in 1880 under Reverend James T. Mason, who conducted services in the county’s first small courthouse. In September of 1883, the cornerstone was laid for this important early landmark. Building costs totaled…

First National Bank - Securities Building

This magnificent structure was the second home of Montana Territory’s first bank, chartered in 1866. Combining Romanesque, French Second Empire, and popular Victorian-period stylistic elements, the talented St. Paul firm of Hodgson, Wallingford and…

First Unitarian Church of Helena

Outstanding architecture and a long history of community service make this stunning landmark much beloved. It is the only known example of prominent architect C. S. Haire’s work in the Richardsonian Romanesque style. Magnificent round arches, a…

John Frey House

Lucy Healey kept house for her seven children in a small dwelling on this property during the 1870s. Her husband left in 1876 and was rumored to have taken up with a “lewd woman” in Deadwood, Dakota Territory. The court granted Lucy a divorce and…

Herman Gans House

This appealing residence was an early addition to one of Helena’s first neighborhoods, completed circa 1880 and enlarged in 1884 by prominent Helena clothing merchant Herman Gans. The bayed tower, arched windows, stained glass, and south side porch…

Gold Block

On July 16, 1928, a devastating fire swept between the Granite and Gold Blocks (note inscription, second story center). The structure was rebuilt by then-owner Charles Benton Power and was the last major downtown commercial building constructed by…

Goodkind Building

This building is an excellent example of transitional Western Commercial architecture before the advent of more ornate styles. The simple, narrow plan enhanced by decorative windows is typical of the 1870s and early 1880s. A pressed metal cornice…

Grand Lodge A.F. & A.M. of Montana

Meriwether Lewis’s Masonic apron and an O. C. Seltzer mural depicting the first Masonic meeting in Montana are among the treasures displayed in “the home of Montana Masonry.” A dynamic political and social force since early territorial days, the…

George Grossberg Residence

George and Esther Grossberg built this Craftsman style bungalow in the early 1920s. The mix of multi-colored brick and stucco blends beautifully into the surrounding landscape. Tucked between two Victorian-era homes, this charming 1920s residence…

George Herrmann House

The Italianate style residence of pioneer businessman George Herrmann has long presided over the north slope of Tower Hill, commanding the attention of passersby on Broadway below. Herrmann, a native of Bavaria, established his cabinet shop at 201…

Iron Front Hotel

Helena architects Heinlein and Matthias designed this elegant European-style hotel, formerly the Windsor House. Built in 1888, it is Montana’s only known example of a prefabricated iron façade. The locally pre-cast façade represents a building trend…

Alex C. Johnson Home

Senator T. C. Power met A. C. Johnson in Chicago and, taking a liking to the young man, offered him a job out west. The nineteen-year-old came to work as chief clerk at Power’s Fort Benton Mercantile in 1879. Power and Johnson became friends and both…

Kain Building

Thomas Kain and his sons, Henry and John, constructed this masonry showcase as an office for the family stonecutting business circa 1912. Kain is credited with developing several Helena quarries and thus contributed greatly to local building patterns…

Kenck & Company Saloon / King & Nuss Grocers

In the wake of disastrous fires of the previous decade, brick buildings like this mid-1880s combination business and rooming house gradually displaced less substantial frame constructions. F. J. Kenck’s saloon originally shared space with King and…

Kleinschmidt Block (Harvard Block)

Entrepreneur Reinhold H. Kleinschmidt built this block with five storefronts and upstairs lodging rooms circa 1892. Among his first commercial tenants was Charles Grossman, a wallpaper hanger and painter, whose business was in the corner storefront.…

Governor Leslie House

Territorial Governor Preston Leslie was a resident of this early Helena home, constructed in the late 1870s. Originally built in the Gothic Revival style popular during Helena’s townsite period, later remodeling added classical details. The two…

Lewis and Clark County Courthouse

Much Montana history unfolded within this magnificent landmark, which served as both territorial capitol (1887-1888) and state capitol (1889-1902). Here in 1889 officials received word of statehood, and three hours later J. K. Toole was sworn in as…

Lewis and Clark County Jail

Masterful stonework of local granite in the Romanesque style creates a somber effect in this 1890 institution. The corner tower (which lost its battlements in the 1935 earthquakes), thick stone lintels, and heavy arches recall the romantic…

Lockey & Leiser Building

Merchant-turned-real-estate-developer Richard Lockey built this three-story commercial building in partnership with Jacob Leiser in 1891. The brick structure features two first-floor storefronts with a central entrance providing access to the upper…

Masonic Temple, Helena

This grand structure reflects the prosperous 1880s and the importance of the Masons in the community. Awarded a $250 prize for their design, Helena architects Heinlein and Matthias also won the job of overseeing the building’s construction in 1885.…

Ming Opera House Consistory Shrine

Masons have been a dynamic force in Montana since early territorial days, playing key roles in events that shaped the state’s history. Helena Masons first came together in 1865 for the funeral of Dr. L. Rodney Pococke, for whom Rodney Street was…

Montana Club

Time stands still within the quiet confines of this nationally renowned social club, the oldest in the Northwest. A group of Helena’s elite founded the Montana Club in 1885 “for gentlemen only.” Members built a seven-story building on this site in…

Morelli Bridge

Historic maps show that the area above Reeder’s Alley, known as Reeder’s Gulch, was long undeveloped and virtually inaccessible. The city gave in to local pressure in the early 1890s and began construction of this bridge, first known as the Howie…

Myers Residence

A modern brick veneer does not mask the original footprint of this early Helena home. The large bay window, the steeply pitched roof (which added space for a second story), and the cross gable, once sheltered by a full-length front porch, reflect the…

New York Block

This was one of five structures rebuilt after the disastrous lightning-sparked fire of 1928. The original building and its replacement housed the thriving New York Store renamed Fligelman’s in 1929 from 1902 to 1958. This pioneer department store was…

North Rodney Street Neighborhood / Courthouse Square

As the gold camp at Last Chance Gulch haphazardly spread out around the placer diggings in the mid-1860s, Helena’s original townsite was platted. By 1867, a new county courthouse graced the central square here in Scott’s Addition, but only a few…

Opp and Conrad Funeral Home

Jacob Opp and his sons Lawrence and Arthur worked for the longtime undertaking firm of Herrmann and Company before opening their own mortuary with partner Ralph J. Conrad in 1926. Both Lawrence and Arthur Opp were graduates of Chicago’s prestigious…

Palmquist Residence

Attention to detail distinguishes this one-story brick residence, designed in 1934 by Helena architect E. B. Benson. Benson’s plan incorporates many Tudor revival style elements: an asymmetrical facade, sloping roofline, prominent chimney, arched…

Anna Pascoe House

George and Anna Pascoe, both natives of England, moved to Helena from Butte in 1908. George died soon after the couple purchased this home in 1911. Although he was not long a resident of Helena, George, “with a cheery smile and a good word for…

Piercy Boarding House / Cornell Apartments

The stylish Courthouse Square neighborhood prospered in the 1880s, as evidenced by this fashionable two-and-one-half-story boardinghouse built by wealthy rancher William C. Child. Between 1888 and 1890, this splendid building displaced an earlier,…

Placer Hotel

Artist C. M. Russell illustrated the program for the formal ball, held April 12, 1913, inaugurating the largest hotel between the Twin Cities and the Coast. Built almost entirely with donations as a public enterprise, Helena felt real pride of…

Elisha and Joseph Poad House

Elisha Poad arrived in Helena in 1867 by way of mining camps in California and Nevada. Poad was a native of Cornwall, England, an area with over two thousand years of mining history. Attracted to Helena's placer mines, he was later associated…

Power Block & Power Block West

Influential merchant and investor T. C. Power built his fortunes by controlling much of territorial Montana’s commerce and Indian trade. This outstanding granite business block housed Power’s American National Bank from 1892 through the 1920s.…

Preuitt House

The Warren Street location of this substantial brick home, built by Helena businessman William Preuitt circa 1874, offered a bird’s eye view of the growing town below. It also provided higher ground away from the fires that plagued Helena’s early…

Raleigh and Clarke Dry Goods

This well-preserved commercial structure illustrates Helena’s growth from mining camp to prosperous town. The quoins and arches of the original stone building, constructed circa 1865-1872, are still visible at the rear. In 1878, the building was…

Rodney Hotel

Thomas K. Dane established a hotel on this corner in 1875 when Helena became the territorial capital. On a busy thoroughfare just off Courthouse Square, the establishment had become the Rodney Hotel by 1883 and the original frame building fronting…

Rodney Street News

Gambling that Helena would continue to grow, Eliza Roush purchased this lot and several others in 1869. Her bet paid off, and by 1875, Rodney Street was crowded with buildings, including a small wooden dwelling on this site. A series of wooden…

Sanders Home

Frontier lawyer Wilbur Fisk Sanders established his reputation in 1863 by courageously prosecuting Virginia City’s most dangerous outlaws. A member of the first territorial legislature and Montana’s first United States senator, Sanders was renowned…

Sands Brothers Dry Goods

Originally this was a one-story stone building erected in 1874 to accommodate the business of Morris and Julius Sands. The brothers added a second story and remodeled the façade in 1889, finishing it with alternating rows of buff sandstone and blue…

Seventh Avenue Gymnasium

The sale of bonds allowed construction of this combination two-story brick gymnasium and central heating plant, completed in 1908. Its boiler system heated the two schools, auditorium, and public library that once sprawled across the block. Attorney…

Henry Sieben Home

Henry Sieben came to Montana a seventeen-year-old uneducated orphan and rose to pioneer Montana’s livestock industry. Honesty, integrity, fair treatment, and a love for animals earned Sieben a national reputation. He was a co-founder of the Montana…

Sixth Avenue Apartment

A pair of two-story bay windows with granite sills, decorative brickwork, corbelled cornice, and open front porch recall the prosperous Courthouse Square neighborhood during the 1880s and 1890s. This attractive brick Italianate style dwelling,…

St. Louis Block

Once connected to the old St. Louis Hotel on Jackson Street, this 1882 building in the heart of Helena’s original downtown displays the metal cornices and banded, pedimented windows typical of Italianate style architecture of the time. Pioneer…

William Steele Residence

Nineteenth-century charm is well preserved in this 1883 Queen Anne style residence, built by pioneer physician William L. Steele. Its present appearance reflects additions, including a front porch and bay window, made before 1892. Stucco applied over…

Stone House at Reeder's Alley

Dwellings, bunkhouses, and stables dotted the hilltop during the 1880s, forming an extension of Louis Reeder’s housing complex downslope. One prominent stone building, now the largest portion of the present building, contained four small shotgun…

B. K. Tatem House

Charles Hendrie opened Helena’s first iron foundry on this site before 1868. The property’s third owner, Benjamen K. Tatem, built this two-story residence circa 1875. Wide eaves, low hipped roof, and tall arched windows proclaim Italianate influences…

Tatem - Young House

Benjamin H. and Lydia Mears Tatem came west as newlyweds in 1869. They settled in Helena where Tatem managed the Unionville mining claims of Philadelphia investors and operated Helena Iron Works. Tatem profited from his interest in the Bald Butte…

Joseph K. Toole Mansion

During his second term of office in 1903, Montana’s first governor J. K. Toole commissioned Eugene Fisk to build this magnificent home of locally quarried red porphyry and brick. Fisk, who also designed the 1880s Unitarian Church (now Grandstreet…

Tracy / Power Residence

Praised for lending "an air of distinction" to "one of the handsomest residence streets in Helena," this three-story Queen Anne style home was constructed for George and Eva Tracy. The house was completed just prior to the…

U.S. Assay Office

Much of the great wealth that once came from Montana soil was melted and weighed in this dignified building, constructed in 1875. U.S. Treasury Department architect A. B. Mullet drew the plans for the $75,000 building, which were modified by his…

Uncle Sam's Block

The Montana National Bank, the first bank chartered in Montana Territory, was located on this site in 1866. A housing shortage during the 1880s prompted the construction of this three-story rooming house in 1887. The French Second Empire-inspired…

Ward House

Broad proportions and a horizontal emphasis combine with natural colors to make this classic bungalow a handsome ambassador of that popular style. The residence is unique to the district and an excellent example of early-twentieth-century affluence.…

Yee Wau Cabin

Typical of the tiny dwellings that once lined Last Chance Gulch, this sturdy log cabin was one of the last built on the heels of the gold rush circa 1870. Its original occupants are unknown. From 1876 to 1886 the Yee Wau brothers, longtime local…

Weinstein Grocery Store

As early as 1866, Rodney Street was Helena’s primary north-south connection and thus supported a variety of early businesses. It was also an area better protected from the fires that constantly threatened downtown commerce. This building, constructed…

Charles K. Wells House

Gold-seeking miners once turned the soil in this neighborhood, but when the gold played out, residential development began. Charles K. Wells, whose downtown stationery store was well established by 1870, purchased a large tract of land on Upper…

Adami Barn

Newlyweds Elizabeth and Jacob Adami left their native Germany and traveled by ship, rail, and finally stagecoach to boomtown Helena in 1872. The Adamis settled here, raising seven children. Their residence, razed in the 1970s to create parking,…