Helena South-Central Historic District

This first permanent settlement of the gold camp at Last Chance Gulch offers a glimpse of early Helena from the late 1860s to the 1890s. By the 1870s, a Catholic cathedral, St. John's Hospital, two schools, and dormitories presided over the district atop Catholic Hill. In curious juxtaposition, Helena's red-light district emerged just below along Miller and State streets in the 1880s. Mansions and modest dwellings boasted a wealth of architectural design from Second Empire to Queen Anne, Italianate, and Revival styles. The Northern Pacific Railroad in 1883 spurred economic growth and the population swelled. A German community settled on First Street and other ethnic enclaves localized in the district. The South-Central District remained a preferred location into the early 1880s, and Montana's first governor, J. K. Toole, established residency at Rodney and State streets in 1883. But district vitality waned in the late 1880s when wealthy residents built new mansions on the city's west side. The earthquake of 1935 left its indelible mark claiming most of Catholic Hill and other historic buildings. Wood siding replaced fallen brick veneer and stucco concealed exterior cracks. Though the red-light district and dozens of homes were demolished during 1970s Urban Renewal, this once robust neighborhood is still a quiet reminder of Helena's colorful past.   

20 South Rodney Street

A small L-shaped dwelling with a full-length front porch stood on this lot by 1875 according to an early bird's-eye map of Helena. German Catholic rancher Herman Rosenbaum and his wife Mary purchased the house in 1879. The neighborhood was…

50-52 South Rodney Street

When William Zartrow built a home for confectioner Charles Reinig in 1889, he used “good, sound, hard and well burned brick, the best that the market affords.” The result was an elegant two-story duplex with tall, Victorian chimneys, narrow windows,…

219 Cutler Street

Gold drew not only miners to the camp at Last Chance Gulch, but also tradesmen and merchants such as George Doan, a mechanic from New York. Doan’s modest home, constructed circa 1865 as a temporary two-room dwelling of vertical board, well…

229 Spencer Street

Mining required back breaking labor and, after the easy pickings were gone, substantial capital. How did prospectors decide whether to continue working particular veins? They brought ore samples from their claims to an assay office, where they were…

316 Pine Street

A simple log dwelling stood on this lot in 1892. The dwelling was possibly an early residence of the Halford family, who originally owned property in this block of Pine Street. The present home replaced the log structure during the 1890s. Originally…

Barry Antick House

Stonework of native limestone showcases the masonry skills of Barry Antich, who built this home for his wife Katie and their five children in 1893. The circular ornamentation in the wooden window insets is characteristic of Helena’s early…

Henry Blase House

Danish immigrants Henry and Matilda Blase settled on this property in the 1880s. Like other working-class Europeans who lived in the neighborhood, Blase was a man of many occupations: bartender, saloon keeper, jailer, miner, and landscape gardener.…

Bluestone House

Legend has it that architect James F. Stranahan built this striking residence of locally quarried blue granite for his bride, Leona, in 1889. Stranahan died, however, leaving the home unfinished. Records do show that Leona briefly owned the property,…

George Booker House

St. Louis-born George Booker struck out on his own at 13, followed gold rushes to Pike’s Peak and Alder Gulch, and settled in Helena in 1866. A resonant voice and unfailing good humor brought Booker tremendous popularity as an auctioneer. From 1875,…

Mollie Byrnes House

Twin towers frame a central bay in this marvelous example of Victorian-era flamboyance attributed to local architect W. T. Welter. The exuberant design mirrors the life of its first owner, one of several wealthy madams who vied to dominate Helena’s…

Cannon House

Pioneer capitalist Charles W. Cannon built this architectural gem for his bride, Catherine, in 1868. It was then Helena’s finest residence and is today a splendid local example of the Carpenter Gothic style. The steeply pitched roof and lancet…

Joseph Dagenais Residence

Historic maps of the South-Central neighborhood show that, by 1888, a substantial frame residence had been built atop this gentle knoll on the corner of Spencer and Pine. A corral, a chicken coop, and stables to the south were its next door…

Charles Edstrom Residence

The solid masonry construction of this exemplary home illustrates Helena’s transition from gold camp to permanent settlement. Constructed between 1884 and 1888, the Italianate style residence is of a simple design with a wraparound porch, chamfered…

English House

Lydia Jane English was recently widowed when she and her family moved into this substantial Italianate style residence, built in 1888. Her husband, miner Harvey W. English, was a prominent Helena pioneer who served in the territorial legislature, as…

Halford House

The lure of gold drew miner James H. “Missouri Jim” Halford and his wife, Ellen, to Montana Territory in the mid 1860s. James was a staunch Democrat like many early Helenans, and had earned his nickname commanding a Confederate company during the…

Holter Cottage #1

Pioneer businessmen Anton and Martin Holter made fortunes in hardware, construction, mining investments, and real estate development. The brothers owned a number of lots in south central Helena, including three adjoining lots here on Broadway. The…

Martin M. Holter House

The flamboyant Second Empire style is exceptionally well articulated in this grand residence, showcasing the considerable talent of its builder and original owner, Martin M. Holter. One of only a few well-preserved examples of this style in Montana,…

Ingram House

Contractors Anton and Martin Holter, who operated Helena’s first sawmill, built this frame residence as a rental investment in 1888. Developers like the wealthy Holter brothers built a number of south-central residences during the prosperous 1880s,…

Jezick House

Stonemason Frank Jezick emigrated from Croatia in 1882, leaving behind his wife Mary and three children. Before long, he had established himself in Helena, and in 1887 his family joined him in a newly constructed two-story home at the corner of…

Nicholas Johannes House

The residence that stood on this lot prior to the 1880s was likely central to remodelings and additions made between 1882 and 1890 during the South-Central neighborhood’s building boom. Nicholas Johannes, a German immigrant and carpenter by trade,…

Koch House

A small rectangular gabled dwelling built against a one-room log cabin stood on this spacious corner in the 1870s. The property had changed hands several times when Austrian immigrant Franz Koch, a bookbindery foreman, purchased it in the late 1880s.…

Henry M. Parchen Residence

Professor T. F. Campbell built a log cabin on this corner where he opened Helena’s first public school in 1865. Druggist Henry M. Parchen founded his long-time Helena apothecary that same year. Parchen acquired this property circa 1872 and…

Woodman S. Paynter House

Although modest compared to Helena’s imposing West Side mansions of a slightly later period, this well-preserved home was very grand for its early date. Woodman S. Paynter arrived in Helena in 1868 and entered into a business partnership with Henry…

Ryan Building

Irish immigrant James M. Ryan owned a number of local rental properties, including this appealing wood-frame apartment building constructed as a duplex between 1885 and 1888. Rapid growth during the 1880s prompted neighborhood tenants to take in…

Sieger House

Civic expansion in the late 1880s and demands for housing caused new residential areas to open off the fringes of town. As a result, rental dwellings appeared along Spencer Street creating a diverse population of working-class and ethnic families.…

St. Aloysius Select School for Boys

In 1869, a small contingent of the Sisters of Charity journeyed to Helena by rail and stagecoach from their motherhouse at Leavenworth, Kansas. The sisters established a hospital, schools, and an orphanage atop this rise dominated by Helena’s first…

St. John's Hospital Laundry

Fathers Kuppens and D’Aste of the Society of Jesuits built Helena’s first Catholic church here in 1866, predicting that “this rocky hill will blossom like a garden.” They and the Sisters of Charity, who arrived from Kansas in 1869, transformed the…

Joseph K. Toole House

In May of 1890, Montana’s first governor, Helena trial lawyer and territorial statesman Joseph Kemp Toole, brought his bride, Lilly, to live in the family home on Rodney Street. The territorial brick residence had been constructed before 1880 for…

537 South Rodney

Machinist Frank Hanry and his wife Mary are this well-preserved home’s first known owners. Built circa 1891, the house initially shared its lot with a log cabin and a chicken coop. The brick residence features a Mansard roof with two prominent front…