Reeder's Alley
The oldest intact area of early Helena


Reeder's Alley in the 1970s


PHOTO BY KENNON BAIRD

Once housing for miners and prostitutes, once a would-be art colony, Reeder's Alley has seen many changes over the past 140 years. Today, it houses a variety of business and offices. It has been owned by the State of Montana since 2000.



1973 Video Clip of Reeder's Alley

From "Helena - City of Gold", a promotional film produced in 1973 by the Helena Chamber of commerce.

 

Interpretive Historian Ellen Baumler Presents a Short History of Reeder's Alley

 

 

 

Pits Discovered Beneath the Stonehouse Restaurant Building, 2008


INDEPENDENT RECORD PHOTO BY ELIZA WILEY

In May of 2008, two stone-lined pits were discovered beneath the the floor of the 1870s building which once housed the Stonehouse Restaurant. Click here for the story in the Independent Record.

 

 

A Modern Tale of Reeder's Alley
"ARTISANS OF THE LIBERATED FRONT"
SCAM HELENA IN 1969

From Independent Record archives

In January of 1969, a group of five young Midwesterners drifted into the Helena area. The names they went by were Gillian Fox (20), Roni Reisler (25), Barbara Doherty (19), Paul Barron (19), and Robert Montgomery (19). They slipped out of town six months later with a Federal Warrant following them, running from a flurry of worthless checks, a series of betrayals, and a town soured on the new phenomenon of "hippies".

The brains - if you can call it that - of the "Artisans of the Liberated Front" was apparently 20-year-old Gillian Fox, who manipulated the local media with some success, first by apparently finagling a sympathetic article about the group in May of 1969 from Independent Record staff writer Ann Conger...




Fox's jive is laughable today, but in 1969 it seemed to gain a degree of traction in the community, which is certainly what Fox was counting on. The Artisans opened a checking account at the Union Bank, and set about creating a public image.

Along with their Reeder's Alley shop, the Artisans also kept up their profile by producing small music events. They played a folk mass at the Cathedral of St. Helena on July 6, 1969, billing themselves as "Gillian Fox and the Vixens". On July 10, they produced a rock show at the Eagles Hall...


All seemed groovy until about July 24, when Fox negotiated a $400 loan (about $2,400 in today's money) at the Union Bank, using a collection of musical instruments as collateral, some of which finally turned out to belong to Helena musicians who had worked with Fox.

For the next several days, the Artisans proceeded to write a series bad checks to Helena merchants, using the $400 loan deposit slip as proof that the checks were good. In all, they wrote about $2,000 in worthless checks, which works out to around $12,000 today.

One urgent task for the Artisans on July 27 was the repair of their vehicle, an old Dodge panel truck they had purchased earlier in Clancy. The repairs were paid for with bad checks.

Early on July 28, 1969, Gillian Fox cut his long hair, wrapped it in newspaper and shoved it into the kitchen garbage can. The Artisans loaded into the truck and departed for parts unknown -- but not before Fox mailed to the Independent Record a sick "letter of thanks" to the people of Helena, which read in part:

"We wish to express our thanks to the many wonderful and kind people in your fair city that have been so gracious in their hospitality . . . it has truly been a warm and bracing experience...In thanking all of you,we wish to single out one man, Mr. Gary Garrett, and thank him publicly for all the help, guidance, and opportunity be has given us.
"

Garrett, a local entrepreneur, denied in an Aug. 4 letter to the Independent Record giving any help to the Artisans, saying that Fox approached him on two occasions with what Garrett called "inane schemes".

"On the first occasion I told him that he struck me as an amateur conman and inept rumor monger", wrote Garrett. "On the second occasion I asked him to leave our place of business and lo stay away permanently."

On August 15, 1969, it was reported in the Independent Record that a federal warrant had been issued for the group...


And here the story meets a dead-end. Your editor has contacted one of the Artisans, but they have so far been reluctant to tell their side of the tale. I do not know the legal status of the case.



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