Helena, MT High 91 Low 53 (two days ago)
The next couple of posts are going to be a tour of Helena for those of you who have never visited this capitol city.
Helena was accidently founded by four men, all from Georgia, and known in the history books as the “Four Georgians”. These four men, rather desperate after searching throughout western Montana for gold and finding nothing, stumbled into the area that is now Helena. That night, on July 14th, 1864, the men decided to take one last chance in mining the nearby creek. As luck and fate would have it, the men found gold that evening. They named the stream they found the gold in, appropriately enough, Last Chance Gulch.
Pioneer Cabin: Built in 1865 by miner Wilson Butts. Now owned by the State of Montana and managed by the Montana Heritage Commission.
Word soon got out about the gold strike and, seemingly overnight, Helena became a boomtown. In just a few short years, several hundred businesses had opened up shop in Helena and more than 3000 people called Helena home.
Initially, the new town had the less-than-inspiring name of Crabtown, named after one of the four Georgians who found gold. Soon, though, other names were bounced around, including Pumpkinville and Squashtown. However, many of the miners were from Minnesota. These miners soon began to call the town after another town in Minnesota, called Saint Helena. This name was soon shortened to Helena.
Last Chance Gulch walking mall
Helena became the territorial capitol in 1875. Last Chance Gulch remained the main street in Helena even though the capitol building was built about a mile to the west. Today, you can drive (one way) down part of the Gulch and then it turns into a walking mall.
Reeder’s Alley is the oldest intact piece of early Helena. It was built in the 1870’s by a Pennsylvania brick and stone mason named Louis Reeder. He made his money, not by mining for gold, but by building and investing in land. He built small tenements and bunk houses that catered to single miners.
Morelli Bridge (Reeder’s Alley)
The Stone House (Reeder’s Alley)
Some of Helena’s more famous residents:
Charlie Pride spent a lot of his youth here and played baseball for the Helena Brewers, a semi-pro team. He also worked at the smelter and performed at a night club two nights a week.
Not every city can claim an entire mountain as a city park, but Mount Helena City Park is 5,468 feet above sea level and is 620 acres, making it the second largest city park in the United Stats. For all you hikers out there, there are six different hiking trails to the top.
The Sleeping Giant of the Helena Valley. Seven miles of ridgeline hiking routes offer spectacular panoramic views of the Rocky Mountains.
Next post I want to show you some of the buildings in downtown Helena.