Experiencing History in Helena, Montana - Helena, MT | Attractions, Events, Hotels

Experiencing History in Helena, Montana

Pioneer Cabin – Helena’s Oldest Documented Dwelling

shirley pioneer cabinHelena’s historic Pioneer Cabin is right next door to the Visit Helena Montana Visitors Information Center at 105 Reeder’s Alley. See history, get info!

Pictured here is Shirley (with her granddaughter) in period costume.  She is one of the volunteers who gives tours of the cabin.  Shirley has a special bond with the cabin as her grandmother used to be a caretaker. Here’s the link to the printable PDF flyer featuring the history of this area of Helena, Montana: Pioneer Cabin.

Reeder’s Alley

Come celebrate the most historic part of Helena, MT – Reeder’s Alley. Built in the 1890s, the Alley has a sordid history that includes rough miners, houses of ill repute and hard-working folks trying to make a go of it in the wild west. Today the Alley is a quaint place in town home to many creative businesses and non-profits. The Reeder’s Alley Block Party will be on Thursday, June 7 from 6 pm to 9 pm. This event is free and open to the public.

Won’t be here on June 7th. Fear not – the Alley is ALWAYS open for you to explore.

Original Governor’s Mansion

Original Governor’s Mansion

May 15 to September 15, 2018 – Another great way to take in the history of Montana is with a tour of the Original Governor’s Mansion.  Tours are offered Tuesday – Saturday: Tours at 12:00, 1:00, 2:00 and 3:00. The Mansion is closed Sundays, Mondays and state holidays. Guided tours of this stately mansion offer a splendid opportunity for visitors to experience the material culture and social history during the time it was occupied by Governor Sam Stewart and his family, 1913-1921.

Montana Historical Society – Montana’s Museum

Times of Trouble, Times of Change: Montana and the Great War

When the U.S. entered World War I in April 1917 to make the world “safe for democracy,” a conflict over American ideals erupted at home. What happened when pro-war propaganda swept across the nation? Why did questions of what it meant to be American tear communities apart? What ideals were we fighting to protect? This exhibit explores how everyday Montanans served the war effort on both the home front and the Western Front. It offers several interactive experiences for visitors to step into the lives of Montanans during the war, including a replica trench area and a “Follow a Montanan” character experience. Visit the Montana Historical Society for more information. And, be sure not to miss the Mackay Gallery: This 2,000 square foot exhibit gallery features the art of Montana’s “Cowboy Artist” Charles M. Russell (1864–1926), celebrated artist and illustrator. Or, the exhibit of Montana during the time of Lewis & Clark titled Neither Empty Nor Unknown.


Want more?
Read more about Helena’s History on these web sites:

Gates of the Mountains Boat Tour

Gates of the Mountains Boat Tour

Travel along the Missouri River just as Lewis & Clark did. As you meander down the Missouri, you’ll be able to take in wildlife with the chance of seeing big horn sheep, mountain lions, black bear, bald eagles, otters and more. Guides will read select passages from the journal of Meriwether Lewis as you feel transported to another era. Tours will run May 26 to September 26. Check the Gates of the Mountains website for more information and to purchase your tickets.

Augmented Reality Walking App

This is the the part of the vacation that they’ll remember. This is the part of the vacation that will bring you back to another era. This is the part of the vacation that you’ll tell your friends about. 

Visit Helena Montana is excited to launch an updated release of Helena Walking Tour app for Apple and Android smart phones. The new Helena Walking Tour app will help locals and visitors explore Helena’s unique history and architecture. This exciting new over-hall implements augmented reality that will literally make history come alive on your smart phone.

These historic photo spots center in the Last Chance Gulch core of Helena and are identified with sticker spots on the sidewalk and via the map inside the walking app.  We are waiting for Spring to truly make an appearance before we put these photo spots outside. As of 04/18, we have not yet placed the photo spots.

Last Chance Tour Train

Come aboard the open-air tour train for a one-hour, narrated tour of Helena’s history and attractions. Enjoy unique architecture along Last Chance Gulch and learn about the original millionaires whose Victorian mansions stand as a legacy from another time. Open from June 1 to September 15, 2018. The complete schedule can be found on the Tour Train’s web site. Note: the Train does not operate on Sundays.

The Engine

Excited for the Ride!




My History with History

by Heidi OBrien

About six years ago, I could honestly say, “I’m not a history person.”  Yeah, it’s fine for some people to be interested in and yes, it’s a part of Helena, but it us history and I’m all about now and the future.  If you would have told me then that I’d be wanting to learn more about the history of Helena and Montana, I would have smiled and my eyes would have told you there’s no way that would ever be true.

Now, when I travel our beautiful state of Montana, I seek out history.  I want to know more about the people who made Montana and what their lives where like.

This interest in Montana history began when I interviewed the recipients of Helena’s 145th Birthday Celebration Four Georgians award.  I interviewed Paul Kleffner who as influential in the founding and development of the Kleffner Ranch.  I interviewed Don Fredrikson who shaped the Helena Symphony.  I interviewed Russ Ritter who led City of Helena politics from 1892 to 1991.  And, I interviewed “downtown man” Peter Sullivan who is a priceless advocate for Helena.  All these men had a strong appreciate for the roots that made Helena and I couldn’t help but to feel the same way after speaking with them.

Shortly after, I helped to develop Helena’s Walking app.  As part of the development of the app, I got to walk Helena’s historic streets, camera in hand, taking photos as I read the history of the buildings along Last Chance Gulch, the Westside Mansion District and South Central Area. People stopped me to chat and would share their history of these areas and I got to see old Helena maps and photographs of the community as she used to be.

Having worked in Reeder’s Alley for the last three years, I have gotten to get to know the history of this part of town.  I have especially loved the magical feel of walking into the Pioneer Cabin which was accessible during specially arranged tours with Ellen Baumler of the Montana Historical Society.   The Pioneer Cabin is a true treasure, but not everyone has been fortunate enough to be part of a group that was able to tour the cabin.

Who knows maybe after touring these Helena historic sites, you too will be a fan of history?  Or, maybe you already are.  Either way, there’s no doubt that you’ll enjoy exploring the historic assets of Helena, Montana.