Including Hill Park and Women's Park
46°35'39.29"N 112° 2'26.02"W




1930s Tinted Postcard of the Algeria Shrine Temple


Built in 1920-21 as the headquarters of the Algeria Shrine, this remarkable Moorish Revival style building, with its towering minaret, has long been a popular postcard and snapshot subject.

The building suffered substantial damage in the 1935 earthquakes, and the City of Helena purchased it from the Shrine shortly thereafter. It was the home of City offices until 1976, when they were removed to the renovated 1904 Federal Building. The police department operated from the Civic Center for decades, and the fire department still has a staion there.

For a detailed history of the Civic Center, download the 1987 National Register of Historic Places nomination form , courtesy of the Montana Historical Society's Montana History Wiki.

 

The Algeria Shrine Temple Nearing Completion, 1921
Note scaffolding in front archway


COURTESY OF THE DAVID POOR COLLECTION


Detail Showing Scaffolding

 

Dedication Ceremony Souvenir Button

 

Recent Satellite Image of the Civic Center Area


Algeria Shrine Temple from the Federal Building, probably 1924


COLLECTION OF KENNON BAIRD

 

Algeria Shrine Temple and a Corner of Hill Park, 1920s


COURTESY OF TOM KILMER

Intersection of Benton Ave. and Neill Ave.

Algeria Shrine Temple in Winter, 1920s


COLLECTION OF KENNON BAIRD

Algeria Shrine Temple, 1920s

Algeria Shine Temple & the Great Northern Depot from Women's Park, 1920s


In 1938, the Helena Chamber of Commerce briefly entertained plans to build a log cabin history museum on the NE corner of Women's Park. Helena women's clubs and other concerned women nixed the location because construction would have changed the original design of the park, which they felt would have been unfair to the memory of women instrumental in making the park a possibility, and would have displaced benches and fountains that had been placed as memorials.

In May of 1939, a small museum opened in the west end of the Great Northern Depot.




Algeria Shrine Temple, ca. 1928


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

 


Algeria Shrine Band in front of the Temple, 1920s



Souvenir folder featuring the Algeria Shrine Temple, 1920s




1935 Earthquake Damage

Both photos show damage on the west side, along Park Ave. There was similar damage on the east side, as well as extensive cracking of interior plaster.

The ballroom, on the north end of the building, apparently was not extensively damaged; public events, including fundraisers for building repair, were held there in 1936 and '37. Repairs on the Temple concluded in December of 1937.

 


West Side, Nov. 17 1935


COURTESY OF THE SEAN LOGAN COLLECTION • CLICK ON IMAGE TO OPEN A BIG VERSION IN A NEW WINDOW


Looking Northeast , Nov. 17 1935


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East Side, Nov. 10 1935


COURTESY OF THE SEAN LOGAN COLLECTION • CLICK ON IMAGE TO OPEN A BIG VERSION IN A NEW WINDOW



Undergoing Repair
Four Photos Courtesy of the Helena Civic Center, via Kerry Brown
Special Thanks to Diane Stavnes


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The Wall Above the Auditorium Stage Required Additional Repair



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The Original Dome
1921 - 1938


COLLECTION OF KENNON BAIRD

The dome of the Algeria Shrine Temple minaret was originally covered with blue terra cotta tiles, and topped by a metal crescent and star motif. The City purchased the building following the 1935 earthquakes.

 

Original Blue Terra Cotta Tiles Can Still Be Seen
AT THE BASE OF THE SMALL ONION DOME


PHOTO BY KENNON BAIRD

The tiles are difficult to see from street level. Many layers of paint are visible on the onion dome.




PHOTO BY KENNON BAIRD




The City of Helena Removed the Blue Tile Dome in 1938
Replaced with sheet copper dome in 1939 following protests


COURTESY OF CAPT. SEAN LOGAN & THE HELENA FIRE DEPT.
FOR MORE HISTORIC HFD PHOTOS, CLICK HERE!

 


COLLECTION OF TED KIRKMEYER, COURTESY OF TOM MULVANEY

Promotional float for the Marlow Theatre, parked on Fuller Avenue, 1939. In the background is the domeless Civic Center minaret.


In July of 1977, Entrepreneur Clem Meyer of Helena recalled to an Independent Record reporter what covering the restored dome with copper was like...

"It's 208 feet to the top," Meyer said. "I had to cut the copper to fit like barrel staves, then carry it up the stairs to the balcony." From there he climbed scaffolding to the peak. "I used to be able to walk a 2 X 4 joist,"he said. "Now I can't walk on a plank.

"DON'T GET OLD," he ordered with a rueful smile.

A Pleasant 1940s Postcard View

 

Civic Center from Women's Park, 1940s

This from the National Park Service's Women's Progress Commemorative Commission Women's History Site Database (pdf file):

Prior to 1905, the area that later became Women's Park was a spot were women often stopped to rest on their way back to their west side homes after shopping downtown. Rose bushes were informally planted and benches placed in what became known as the
Women's Resting Place. In 1913, James and Mary Hill donated the land to the City of Helena for the park. The property was split in two with the construction of Fuller Avenue in 1918, and the parks became known as Hill Park and Women's Park. The Women's Park Association was formed during this period. They held a benefit ball to raise funds to beautify the parks in 1916, and over the years dedicated additional benches and other improvements.



Postcard view from Hill Park, 1940s

 

A late 1940's postcard view


COLLECTION OF KENNON BAIRD

Civic Center façade

 

A late-afternoon view, before 1951

We can date this photo because we don't see the old silver bell which once hung in the fire tower on display in front of the Civic Center. It was placed there in 1951 (see it in the following photo).

 



Civic Center from Hill Park, ca.1954


COLLECTION OF KENNON BAIRD

Fire trucks at the ready!

 

1954 Helena fire truck, purchased from The Four Wheel Drive Auto Company of Clintonville, Wisconsin.

 

Park Ave. and the Civic Center, 1957


COLLECTION OF KENNON BAIRD

 



Inside the Minaret, June 24 2009


PHOTO BY KENNON BAIRD

The high circular observation platform of the Civic Center minaret, just below the dome, is reached by climbing wooden steps located inside the structure. The steps are hung from horizontal timbers.

Pictured above is the door leading out to the large square observation platform at the base of the cylindrical minaret.

 


PHOTO BY KENNON BAIRD

A view of the steps, about halfway up the minaret.

 

Downtown from the Minaret, June 24 2009


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Inside the East Tower, 2012

As part of the conversion of the Algeria Shrine Temple into City Hall after the 1935 earthquakes, the fenestration on the south side of the building was changed, primarily to create a Helena Fire Department training facility. The east tower was substantially augmented, with a narrow Moorish window being bricked up and three large rectangular window openings added...


Bricked-up Moorish Window Seen from Inside the East Tower


COURTESY OF SEAN LOGAN

The new windows, installed in the late 1930s, are removable from the inside, allowing firemen to practice rappelling down the façade of the building. The placement of the new windows mimics an earlier wooden training wall which stood near the old fire house on South Main.

The composite image below shows the Algeria Shrine before the post-earthquake remodeling, the old training wall, and the new removable Civic Center windows in 1939.



COURTESY OF SEAN LOGAN • CLICK ON IMAGE FOR A BIG VERSION IN A NEW WINDOW



Views of the Windows and Interior of the East Tower, November 2012

Photos Courtesy of Sean Logan

The removable windows are accessed by an interior wooden ladder and platform system.

 

Metal Rappelling Rope Anchors Embedded in Concrete Below the East Tower



Ladders, Platforms and Bracing Inside the Tower


 

Platform and Window

 

Removable Window

 


Turnbuckle Cross Bracing Inside the East Tower
The Base of the Onion Dome

 

Firemen Injured

This 1974 incident apparently ended Civic Center window training.

The Civic Center Auditorium and Ballroom
Photos by Kathryn Fehlig ~ September 2009


Thanks, Kathy, for the handsome photos!

Fireman's Ball, Civic Center Ballroom, March 17 1936


THE JEZICK FAMILY COLLECTION, COURTESY OF CHUCK JEZICK • CLICK ON IMAGE FOR A BIG VERSION IN A NEW WINDOW



Helena High Junior Prom, Civic Center Ballroom, 1938


COURTESY OF WENDI KOTTAS PETERSON • CLICK ON IMAGE FOR A BIG VERSION IN A NEW WINDOW

Teen Dance in the Civic Center Ballroom, 1968


COURTESY OF ROBERT NOEL CLARKSON



Hill Park and Women's Park

Mine Tailings on the Future Site of Women's Park, 1897


COURTESY OF THE DAVID POOR COLLECTION • CLICK ON IMAGE TO OPEN A BIG VERSION IN A NEW WINDOW

 

James J. Hill



Land for Hill Park was donated to the City of Helena by James J. Hill, builder of the Great Northern Railway. In 1914, the eastern half of the park land was upgraded by the Women's Park Association...

"The Women's Park Association was organized in April, 1914. Through the efforts of the
organization the women's section Hill Park was created, making one of the unsightly sections of the capital city a beauty spot, including a grass lawn, broad walks, beds of beautiful flowers, trees and shrubbery, stone benches, drinking fountains bird fountains and other artistic garden
furnishings. The women's work continued on for some years and gave proof of local patriotism and pride in the capital city of the state. And it is a contribution to Helena which will be more and more appreciated. The women of the associaion do not claim all the credit. The men of Helena contributed generousy, as well as the city officers, ever ready to assist whenever called upon or help."

Helena Daily Independent, Sept.1 1929

 

Looking East Across Hill Park, ca. 1920


THE WES AND CAROL SYNNESS COLLECTION

A parade is making the turn at Neill Ave. and Fuller. Prominent in the background is the Steamboat Block.



Hill Park from Women's Park, 1920s


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The Northernmost Monument to the Confederacy is in Hill Park

The Algeria Shrine Temple seen from Hill Park, ca. 1930. In the foreground is the Confederate Fountain, donated in 1916 by the Daughters of The Confederacy. It is the northermost monument to the Confederacy in the U. S., despite similar claims made for monuments in Elmira, New York and Alton, Illinois. The fountain has undergone several repairs and restorations over the years.

 

Girls posing at the Confederate Fountain, ca 1917



Girls posing on the Confederate Fountain, 1940s


Mary Evelyn Synness (on the left) and an unknown companion.

The Rustic Bandstand
1922 - circa 1950


COURTESY OF TOM MULVANEY

Constructed in the autumn of 1922, this rustic-style bandstand could accomodate 40 musicians. It was located just southeast of the Confederate Fountain, part of which can be seen behind the tree on the left side of the photo.

According to newspaper articles, the design and placement of the bandstand left much to be desired. Audiences were downhill from the bandstand, which would have made sitting down for concerts quite uncomfortable. The roof projected sound straight down, so performances were difficult for audiences to hear.

The bandstand was in use until at least 1945, when it was reported as being in disrepair. The completion of the bandshell in Memorial Park in 1949 made the old bandstand totally obsolete. It was likely demolished around that time.

 


COLLECTION OF TED KIRKMEYER, COURTESY OF TOM MULVANEY CLICK ON IMAGE FOR A BIG VERSION IN A NEW WINDOW

The east side of the bandstand, May 22 1937. The event was a picnic in Hill Park, sponsored by the Rio Theatre.


Hill Park from Women's Park, 1941


COLLECTION OF KENNON BAIRD



Helena High School Band Members in Women's Park, 1957


COURTESY OF RAY LINDSEY


The "Last Chancer" Tour Train on Fuller Ave., ca. 1956

Note the brick paving.



The ubiquitous Tour Train at Hill Park on Neill Ave., 1959



1970s view of the Civic Center from Women's Park



 

The Denver Block Arch in Women's Park

Built in 1890-91, the Denver Block (125 Broadway) was a mixed-use building with businesses on the street level and flats above. It was damaged by the 1935 earthquakes, but repaired. The Denver Block was spared demolition during the 1970s Urban Renewal program, but was destroyed by fire on May 26, 1981.

Thanks to Norman "Jeff" Holter, the granite arch was saved. It was taken down and reassembled in Women's Park where it stands today...


COURTESY OF SEAN LOGAN • CLICK ON IMAGE FOR A BIG VERSION IN A NEW WINDOW

 

Memorial Plaques on the Arch


COURTESY OF SEAN LOGAN