Walk North Ewing Around the Old Governors Mansion
Helena ha many stately mansions and homes. Many of the older mansions are centered around the North Ewing Street which also is home to the Old Governor's Mansion. Some of the homes are still occupied as single family homes and parking near the old mansion is a good place to start a walk of the area.
The most famous of the homes in the area is of course the Old Governor's Mansion so a brief history is important. The Old Governor's mansion was not built for future Montana governors. The home was originally built by William Chessman in 1888 as his private home. For twenty five years two additional owners lived in this lovely Queen Anne style mansion and its spacious grounds.
In 1913 the State of Montana purchased the mansion for state governors to reside in. The mansion was the home of many governors until the state built a new home in 1959.
Today there are tours given of the old mansion. From May 1 to September 30 they are offered from 12 pm, to 4pm Tuesday through Saturdays. The rest of the year the mansion is only open on Saturdays from 12 pm to 4 pm. Tickets are $ 4.00 for adults and $1,00 for children (no age identified). Families can tour the mansion for a maximum cost of $ 8.00.
Walk the Trolley Block on Last Chance Gulch
The pedestrian mall on Last Chance Gulch has several streets christened by different names. The Trolley Block is named in respect after the trolleys that once graced the streets of Helena. It was the third street that I came upon on that cool Sunday morning in Helena.
Back in 1883, the Northern Pacific Railroad located in Helena. With the arrival of the train passengers needed to be ferried from the station to downtown Helena. A system was developed of horse drawn trolley cars. Passengers were shuttled from the train depot to downtown for ten cents. However the trolley was very slow and a small system of locomotives was brought in. The locomotives were dirty and noisy and lasted only a few years. Finally, a system of electrified trolley cars was installed. Several different companies had cars that competed for business. The electric trolley cars lasted for over 35 years until the allure of the auto made it difficult to compete. The last of the trolley cars went out of business in 1927.
The trolley car on the Trolley Block was donated by the Coveys. Mr. Covey was a Great Falls state legislator who along with his wife have restored many buildings throughout Montana. The trolley car is testament to an earlier time of getting around Helena and the main feature of the Trolley Block. However sipping my coffee drink I may have missed some of the other sites on the block.
Power Building on Power Block
Walking around downtown Helena early on a Sunday morning I came on a magnificent building at the corner of Sixth and Main Street. Engraved above the front entrance were the words power buidling. Apparenty because of the size and grandeur of the six story Power building the entire block came to be known as the Power block. The building was built by local magnate, Thomas Power in 1889 as an office building that was built to last. Majestic in its appearance with light granite it still stands as a testament to well off times in the late 19th century. Unfortunately the building was not open but from the pictures on the Helena web site the inside is definitely worth seeing if you get the chance.
Algerian Shrine Temple
Driving past the Helena Cathedral we came upon a building with a definite Moorish look and what appeared to be a tall minaret. I told my wife that I was going to stop the car to take some pictures. Upon getting close enough, lettering on the building informed me that it was the Civic Center. I left Helena, Montana believing that all major city offices were housed in that building. Getting back to Sacramento and checking on-line I found out that it had an interesting past and no longer houses city offices.
The building was built in 1920 to serve as the offices of the Algeria Shrine. During the 1935 Montana earthquake the building suffered major damage. It was purchased shortly thereafter by the City of Helena and served as city offices until 1976. The building was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1988, Today the building houses a 2,000 person ballroom with 15,000 feet of exhibition hall. It is frequently rented out for community events and large weddings. The building premises also houses a fire department and police station of the City of Helena.
Atlas Block in Downtown Helena
Several of the streets that occupy downtown Helena have been given a name and wayfinding signs The Atlas block is so named because of a grand building with a uniquely ordained roof message. Samuel Jones was a businessman who owned an insurance company and wanted to convey the concept of how getting insurance would protect individuals from the hazard of fire. The combination of white salamanders and other creatures on a metal canopy of his 1889 building that are not affected by the flames was an instant hit and has become a notable part of Helena's past. A figure on the canopy also appears to hold the weight of the building on its shoulders thus the name Atlas. Over the years the building has been home to a large department store, saloon and offices. According to the very informative Downtown Helena web site the building's architecture is of Richardsonian Romanesque style. Definitely a strikingly pretty building and one worth taking several pictures of.
Just down the block from the Atlas Building is a multi color statue of a dog. While I tried to find information about this dog and its story I have so far been unsuccessful. The little dog made such a great picture however it had to be included as part of this page.
Cathedral of Helena:
We were totally unprepared for a church of this beauty and height in Helena, Montana. The Cathedral of Helena standing over 240 feet high with its two great towers is both impressive to look at from above the town as well as up close.
The cathedral was part of a long term effort in the town of Helena to build a magnificent cathedral. The effort moved into full swing in 1905 when a generous gift of land made purchase of the remaining land more economical. A working group to build the cathedral was formed and decided on an Hungarian born but Austrian educated architect by the name of Albert Von Houblis to design the cathedral. At the time of his hiring he was living in Washington D.C. and had been involved in the design of several other catholic churches. Von Houblis submitted designs of both Gothic and Romanesque Styles to the church steering committee. They chose the Gothic style which was modeled after the Cologne Cathedral. Construction of the church began in 1908 and was completed in 1914.
There have been several major repairs and renovations to the church over the years. In 1935 the south tower of the church was heavily damaged by an earthquake. In the mid 1950's a bronze altar and grillwork was added to the sanctuary.
Unfortunately our visit was timed on a Sunday morning when regular worship services were in order. We chose not to disturb the congregation by peering into the church and taking pictures. However if we come back we will certainly sign up for a tour of this magnificent cathedral.
Last Chance Wagon Ride Dinners
My family and I traveled to Helena, MT and while we were there made reservations at Last Chance Wagon Ride Dinners. It was a great evening that started off with a horse drawn wagon ride up into the mountains. When we arrived we were shown around the small cabin and tee-pees where dinner would be served. After a few stories and some beautiful scenery we went inside the tee-pee and were served along with a couple of short songs from Bruce Anfinson. Once we were done with dinner we went out to a campfire where Bruce came out and played and sang more songs and told some old western/cowboy stories. Thanks for a great evening. It was very relaxing and we felt as if were living in the early times.
- Arts and Culture
- Historical Travel
Montana Historical Museum
For those interested in Montana history, this is the place to go.
From Native artifacts to painting, from firearms to tools used in mining, farming, ranching, from gems to costumes, this Museum covers a lot of grounds.
The cow head skeleton gracing the entrance, is the work of a Native artist.
There is also a Library and research center.
May 1 through September 30
Monday through Saturday, 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Thursday evenings until 8:00 p.m.
Closed Sundays and Holidays.
October 1-April 30
Monday through Saturday, 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Thursday evenings until 8:00 p.m.
Closed Sundays, and Holidays.
$5 per adult
$1 per child
$12 per family
Group tours by reservation only.
Ride The Last Chance Tour Train
Ride the Last Chance Tour Train and experience Helena's colorful past. From its beginning, spurred by the discovery of gold in Last Chance Gulch to the present. You'll hear wonderful stories as you sit back, relax and enjoy the ride through the "Queen City of the Rockies". Operating season Memorial Day week-end through September 15th.
- Family Travel
State Capitol Building
Ever heard the saying, "Beauty is only skin deep, but ugly goes right to the bone?" That is the best way I can describe Montana's state capitol building in Helena. No, I don't have a picture to prove it (camera broke on my trip...), but take my word for it. The outside of the building is really pretty and nice! The inside, however, is painted this pinky-coraly type color, and it was a big disappointment. The colors had nothing to do with Montana as I saw it. Maybe a deep green or sky blue would have done better. As soon as I go back, I'll take a picture to show on here.
I would have really liked to spend more time into this cathedral! Modelled after the Dom of Cologne and the Votive Church of Vienna, this gothic style cathedral is a beauty!
You cannot miis it! The twin spires are 230 feet high.
The building was open for Christmas of 1914.
When I was there, there was a very important funeral about to begin so, we only had a glimpse of the inside but it is really majestic with imposing columns, marble, gold leafs and stained glasses imported from Bavaria.
The St. Helena Cathedral is open year-round, from 10:00am - 4:00pm. Daily Mass is held in the Day Chapel on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 8:00am; and on Tuesday and Thursday, 5:20pm. Pre-arranged guided tours take 1 hour.
The strange story of the Goddess of Liberty
Like many capitols in the US, Helena has its Lady Liberty atop the building but the story of how it got there is really strange. During the "Capital fight", the people responsible for the plans ran off with all the papers and records.
During construction, a statue of a Goddess of Liberty arrived from back East with no indications about who ordered it and for what use. The company who made the statue had all their records lost in a fire and no one claimed the abandonned goddess. The builders wanted such a statue for their building and they used it.
On top of Tower Hill, lies one of Helena's landark. The Fire Tower. From that vantage point of view, the tower has served as a guardian of the city. There's been a tower since 1869 but this one dates from 1884.
Last Chance Gulch Street
Helena's main street is located where the Last Chance Creek stood. This is where the “Four Georgians” (John Cowan, Daniel Jackson Miller, John Crab, and Reginald, or Robert Stanley) found gold in 1864. The claim was staked and named “Last Chance Gulch.” The group worked there until 1867 and then went back East, now rich.
Nowadays, North Last Chance Gulch is a pedestrian mall filled with historical buildings, saloon, restaurants, shops, coffee houses...
Along the mall, you will find many works of arts representing the heritage of Helena: cow-boy, train, mining, the press (Helena owes it to have won the capital title)...
A very enjoyable walk indeed!
Montana State Capitol Building 2
The first thing you'll notice in the building is the big painted rotunda with medallions representing important people in the history of Montana at the times : Cow-boy, Natives, Explorer and Miner . The tones are warm red and yellow with touches of green.
A grand stairways goes up from the lobby and you'll be bathed in a golden light coming from stained glass overlooking the gardens in the back and covering this aisle of the Capitol.
All three powers were housed in the building: the House and Senate of Montana, the Governor's office and the Supreme Court (now in another building close by but the Old Supreme Court remains).
The building is filled with paintings depictiung important moment in Montana's history. The most important one being : "Lewis and Clarck Meeting The Indians" At Ross Hole as a remembrance of the moment when the two explorers' party met with Salish Indians and asked them for the best way to cross the moutains and reach the Pacific.
It is also filled with statue, one of which is Jeanette Rankin, the first woman to be elected in the US House in 1916. You can see it in the House room, above the Speaker's chair. Talking about that, the House and Senate floors are pretty neat. The dark woods and paintings give it a stately and solemn air that's guaranteed to make you take the State's business seriously. The Senate and Old Court are located at the second floor (If I'm not mistaken) around the Rotunda while the House is at the third floor in another part of the building.
The Governor's Office is on the first floor, at the end of the aisles starting from the lobby (the other side is the State Secretary Ofiice).
According to Justin, it was the beautifullest Capitol he had ever seen.
For more pictures, visit the travelogue!