Including Hill Park, Women's Park
and the Confederate Memorial Fountain

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


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

 

East Side, Oct. 18 1935


COURTESY OF THE ANN AND JOHN FAY COLLECTION, VIA KALLY PORRINI

 

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


PHOTO BY KENNON BAIRD CLICK ON IMAGE FOR A BIG VIEW IN A NEW WINDOW


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.

 

Model of the Algeria Shrine


COLLECTION OF THE ALGERIA SHRINE, THANKS TO SHAWN RATCHFORD
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This striking model was built by Shriners Jack J. Haytin (1890-1972) and William Kiefner (1890-1963). The date of the model is unknown, but possibly 1940s.

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


COURTESY OF SEAN LOGAN • CLICK ON IMAGE TO OPEN A BIG VIEW IN A NEW WINDOW

The 1916 Confederate Memorial Fountain

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. Until 1926, it was the northermost monument to the Confederacy in the U. S., (a memorial in Seatlle's Lake Vew Cemetery now has that distinction). The fountain has undergone several repairs and restorations over the years.

 

Fountain Dedication, Helena Daily Independent, Sept. 6, 1916

Handsome Fountain Given To Helena With Fitting Ceremony
Confederate
Daughters Present Memorial Structure.
Large Crowd Hears Talks.
$2,000 Memorial Placed at Highest Point in Hill Park to Beautify Rest Spot
Miss Young MakesSpeech of Presentation.

With fitting ceremony, the beautiful fountain recently placed in Hill park was presented to the city of Helena last evening by the Daughters of the Confederacy in Montana. City Attorney Edward Horsky, acting for Mayor R. R. Purcell, who was unavoidably absent, accepted the gift after an address of presentation by Miss Georgia C. Young. The emblem is a splendid contribution to the beautification of the park given to the city some years ago by the later James J. Hill.

A gathering of a couple of hundred Helenaites joined about the new structure to listen to the evening’s program. Several Confederate veterans were present in places of honor. A short program, with a few necessary formalities, was applauded by the patriotic crowd. When the impressive monument was unveiled a long demonstration followed, giving the fountain a most hearty welcome as one more means of beautifying the city park.

The Evening’s Program. Judge R. Lee Word presided over the program. Prior to the unveiling ceremony the Helena drum corps gave several selection. Mrs. Will Aiken pulled the cord which released the flag covering the new fountain. The water was turned into the huge bowl by Mrs. F. F. Read. These women with Miss Young, who followed with the presentation speech, are the only charter members now in the city.

Miss Young, in formally presenting the splendid memorial to the city, told of the history of the gift; how the Confederate Daughters seeing the need of more means of beautifying Hill park, set about on a campaign to secure funds for the work. She explained the motives of the order in planning such a gift, telling how the Confederate Daughters, desirous of making some presentation to their new residence after leaving the south, had decided upon the fountain as a fitting memorial.

Formally Presented. The speaker lauded the present-day American spirit, a spirit of union with no feeling between the old north and south, which caused such bitterness and sorrow years ago. Both sides are now engaged in building up a better c ountry to live in, making their homes more comfortable, their cities more beautiful. She closed:

“On behalf of the daughters of the Confederacy, I present this fountain to the city of Helena as a token of our esteem toward our new home.”

“The city of Helena is pleased and honored to accept this substantial and beautiful donation from the Daughters of the Confederacy. On behalf of the city I accept most heartily this splendid token” Thus spoke Attorney Edward Horsky, in place of Mayor Purcell.

The city attorney, in accepting the gift, delved into the history of the city and the park, on which the monument was built. He lauded the spirit of the Confederate Daughters in making such a fitting gift. “The efforts of the Daughters of the Confederacy in planning such a gift are worthy of the highest praise,” said Mr. Horsky. “We have several pretty parks, though they lack such fitting and substantial markings as this, it is a beautiful memorial that will long keep bright the memory of the organization that donated it.”

Of Native Granite. The fountain is carved from native Montana granite. It towers eight feet high and in the top a large electric globe is placed. Four streams of water pour forth into a large bowl which overflows into a basin six feet square. The structure is ornamented with pretty carvings. It was designed by Architect George H. Carsley and erected at a cost of $2,000. It was placed on the highest point in Hill park.



From Confederate Veteran Magazine
January 1, 1917
via Ken Robison


CONFEDERATE MEMORIAL IN HELENA, MONT.

The 5th of September, 1916, was made memorable in the
city of Helena, Mont., by the presentation of the Confed-
erate memorial fountain as a gift from the Winnie Davis
Chapter, U. D. C. It was in 1903 that this Chapter began
its work for a Confederate memorial, and in this it was aided by other Chapters of the State. So on the evening of September s, in the glow of the long Montana twilight, an interested throng gathered to witness the unveiling ceremonies.

Judge R. Lee Word, of the district court, acted as master
of ceremonies. The speech of presentation was made by
Miss Georgia C. Young, the veil was drawn by Mrs. Will
Aiken, and the water was turned into the fountain by Mrs.
F. S. Read, these ladies being the only charter members of
Winnie Davis Chapter now residing in Helena. On behalf of
the city the fountain was accepted by City Attorney Edward Horsky, who expressed the appreciation of the municipality for this splendid gift.

This beautiful memorial, which cost approximately two thousand dollars, stands in Great Northern Park, near the heart of the capital city, on the western rim of historic old Last Chance Gulch and near the Great Northern passenger station. The site is such that it is accessible, and the fountain fits into the landscape most charmingly.

The base upon which the fountain is placed is rectangular
in form, bordered by heavy granite copings and approaches being on opposite sides, corresponding to the east-and-west axis of the park. These will be bordered by flower beds, and trees and shrubs will be placed about the fountain.

On the other sides are granite seats with supports having
classic lines. There are two basins. Bubbling drinking foun-
tains at its north and south sides are so designed as to en-
hance the beauty of the lines of the fountain. The upper basin is about six feet in diameter, supported on an octagonal pedestal springing from the lower basin. This pedestal is orna mented by conventional water plant leaves.

Rising out of the upper basin is an octagonal shaft, upon
opposite sides of which are two inscriptions in cut letters,
also with panels and ornament of carved leafage. Upon one side is this inscription : "A Loving Tribute to Our Confederate Soldiers." Upon the other are chiseled these words :

"By the Daughters of the Confederacy in Montana, A.D.
1916."

Four bronze spouts spill water from this pedestal into the
upper basin. In addition, there are four low jets bubbling
through the surface of water in the upper basin, which, to-
gether with two overflow spouts from the drinking fountain and the water spilling from the upper into the lower basin, form pleasing lines and graceful patterns.

THE MEMORIAL FOUNTAIN.

The whole is surmounted by a bronze lantern, giving to the shaft something of the proportions of a lighthouse, the distance from platform to top of light being about nine feet. The designer, Mr. George H. Carsley, the well-known architect of Helena, was inspired somewhat by the memorial fountain erected in Washington City to the memory of Francis Davis Millett and Col. Archibald Willingham Butt, two heroes who lost their lives in the sinking of the Titanic.

Except for the bronze spouts and the floor of the platform,
the material used in the fountain is native Montana granite.

 

Girls posing at the Confederate Fountain, ca 1917



Girls posing, 1940s


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



Girls Climbing, 1946



The Fountain in 1955



Confederate Fountain Restored with Model City Funds, 1971



The Fountain in 2012


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