City Hall • 1885 to 1935

History and Images Contributed by
Helena Fire Department Captain Sean Logan


After incorporation in 1881, the City of Helena ran its various operations in facilities that were scattered throughout town. For example, the police department and court were leased at "the old Independent building" at the corner of Bridge and Water Streets; the city council met in offices in the Ming Opera House on Jackson Street; the fire department had its station on Clore Street, a portion of which was leased.

The impending expiration of that lease in 1883 prompted Fire Chief Charles D. Curtis to opine in the Independent about more suitable quarters. He proposed the construction of one building which would house the fire and police departments, and the various other offices of city government...

This idea germinated over the next couple of years. In the summer of 1885, the construction contract was awarded to N. Monchausen for a bid of $7,530. The building opened on December 10, 1885. The two-story brick edifice would house the city marshal's office and jail, city council, police court and fire department for the next fifty years.

As the following photographs show, the building had several additions through the years, primarily to the rear of the building.


City Hall When New, Probably 1886


COURTESY OF TOM MULVANEY CLICK ON IMAGE FOR A BIG VERSION IN A NEW WINDOW



Daily Independent, December 11 1885

 

Site of City Hall

The footprint shows the 1930 (final) confuguration of the original building and its additions.

 

City Hall, circa 1887


COURTESY OF RICH COE • CLICK ON IMAGE FOR A BIG VERSION IN A NEW WINDOW

Note the addition of a stone barn to the west side of the building.

 


City Hall, circa 1890


HELENA FIRE DEPARTMENT ARCHIVES • CLICK ON IMAGE FOR A BIG VERSION IN A NEW WINDOW

The truncated conical structure on the roof of the building is a hose-drying tower.

 

City Hall, circa 1891


COURTESY OF THE RAY & PHIL JEZICK COLLECTION • CLICK ON IMAGE FOR A BIG VERSION IN A NEW WINDOW

On the far right, we can see part of the second-story addition to the stone barn.



Looking East, up Bridge (State) Street, from S. Benton Avenue, 1890s


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One of the only views known showing the west side of City Hall. Prominent on the roof is the hose-drying tower.



Billiard Room in City Hall, circa 1910



COURTESY OF THE RAY & PHIL JEZICK COLLECTION • CLICK ON IMAGE FOR A BIG VERSION IN A NEW WINDOW

 


Playing Horseshoes on State Street, late 1920s


COURTESY OF THE RAY & PHIL JEZICK COLLECTION • CLICK ON IMAGE FOR A BIG VERSION IN A NEW WINDOW

This view shows the two-story addition to the rear of the original building. It appears that the first-story stonework of the addition has been bricked-over. In the background is South Park Avenue, and above it, running along the hillside, South Benton Avenue.

 


Interior of the Fire Station, March 8 1928


HELENA FIRE DEPARTMENT ARCHIVES • CLICK ON IMAGE FOR A BIG VERSION IN A NEW WINDOW

The brass pole in the background is now in the Civic Center station. As far as is known, the pole is the only remnant of the City Hall building.



October 1935 Earthquakes Doom the Building

Fallen brick from a Chinese mercantile building next door to City Hall crushed an automobile. Slight damage to the brickwork on City Hall can be seen in the upper right. The city moved its operations out of City Hall almost immediately after the first major quake on October 12, but there was more to come...


Subsequent earthquakes collapse the north side of City Hall


SEAN LOGAN COLLECTION CLICK ON IMAGE FOR A BIG VERSION IN A NEW WINDOW

So, city government was once again scattered about town. There was great debate and disagreement within the council as to whether to rebuild it or relocate to a new location. The building was ultimately and unceremoniously demolished in March of 1938.

The next few years were spent politically haggling about the location of the next City Hall. A decision was finally reached, and the rest, as they say...

Go here for more about the Algeria Shrine Temple / current Civic Center


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