Helena Railroad Depot Historic District

The town went wild as the first long-awaited locomotive steamed into Helena on June 13, 1883. The momentous arrival of the Northern Pacific linked Montana to national markets and assured Helena a permanency not previously realized. The Sixth Ward grew almost overnight around the extensive rail yards. Hotels, saloons, and businesses—some in tents—served the first passengers, crews, and Sixth Ward residents, most of whom were railroad employees. Although the depot was a mile from downtown, horse-drawn cabs ferried visitors back and forth. By 1890, the district served four passenger trains daily. Today the small commercial district includes reminders of the territorial period and early twentieth century when the railroad ruled supreme. False-fronted frame buildings from the early 1880s still line Railroad Avenue. Louis Reeder, builder of Reeder’s Alley; businessman Alexander Beattie; and, later, the H. Walter Larson family, all invested heavily in buildings standing here. Charles A. Reed of the renowned firm of Reed and Stem designed the depot in 1903 and A. O. Von Herbulis, creator of the St. Helena Cathedral, drew the plans for St. Mary’s Church in 1910. Trolley tracks embedded in the brick pavement in 1915 and Beattie Park, financed by the Beattie family in 1930, document twentieth-century improvements. Earthquake damage, visible in the replacement brick on the depot’s west end, illustrates the ravages of the 1935 calamity. Eventually rail travel declined and passenger service discontinued, but the district remains a vivid testament to the Northern Pacific line and its enormous importance to the Queen City of the Rockies.


Map of Helena, Lewis and Clarke Co., Montana, 1887

Map of Helena, Lewis and Clarke Co., Montana, 1887

Shows streets, blocks, railroads, roads, cemeteries, and some land ownership.; Relief indicated by hachures.; Includes index to churches, public buildings, schools, and railroads, and 3 vignettes. | Source: Montana Historical Society Research Center Map collection, digitized copy is available on the Montana Memory Project | Creator: Cumming, Cannon and Steele.; H.M. Smyth Printing Company (Saint Paul, Minn.) View File Details Page

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Roughly bounded by Railroad/Helena Avenues, Gallatin Street, North Sanders Street, and North Harris Street
Helena, Montana [map]

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The Montana National Register Sign Program, “Helena Railroad Depot Historic District,” Explore Big – Montana's Historic Places, accessed July 24, 2017, http://explorebig.org/items/show/69.

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