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Location Details

Helena

United States / HELENA, Montana
Location ID: #345
Helena owes its existence to the discovery of placer gold, quartz gold, silver, and lead. Helena became the “Queen City of the Rockies” with the boom brought on by the 1864 gold strike. The first gold strike came in 1852 in Deer Lodge Valley; however, the rush for gold in Montana didn't start until 1862 with the strike at Bannack. In 1864 a group known as the “Four Georgians” (John Cowan, Daniel Jackson Miller, John Crab, and Reginald, or Robert Stanley) stumbled upon gold in what is now Helena's main street. The claim was staked and named “Last Chance Gulch.” The “Four Georgians” worked the gulch until 1867, when they went back East, taking large amounts of dust with them.
As the gulch began to fill with people, the miners decided they needed to come up with a name for the town. The “Four Georgians” originally named it Crabtown after John Crab, one of the founders. Searching for a new name, the miners decided on a name of a town in Minnesota, pronounced Saint Hel-E-na. The pronunciation changed, emphasizing the first syllable of Helena, and “Saint” was dropped from the name. The Helena area is known for sapphires as well as gold. By 1888, an estimated 50 millionaires made Helena their home. Last Chance Gulch produced an estimated $3.6 billion (in today's dollars) in gold over a 20-year period. The Spokane Bar Mine is one of half a dozen digging sites, and numerous old mines and settlements exist nearby.


In 1875, Helena became the capital of Montana Territory. When Montana became a state, the fight for the location of the state capital pitted ‘Copper King' Marcus Daly of Anaconda against rival William A. Clark, who supported Helena. Helena won, and in October 1898, ground was broken for the State Capitol Building.

The historic downtown area of the capital city is situated in a steep gulch with parts of the city perched on surrounding hillsides. This picturesque setting opens up into a wide valley to the north. On the upper-eastside sits Montana's State Capitol. The Helena area offers countless recreation opportunities. The Missouri River flows nearby with several lakes within a short driving distance. Another popular attraction and tourist site is Reeder's Alley. Begun in the early 1860's, Reeder's Alley was carefully constructed of native materials and brick, brought to the new mining camp from Fort Benton to the north.

The need for lodging in the new camp called Last Chance prompted Lewis Reeder to begin a series of small buildings at the extreme west end of what was known as 'Bridge Street.' As demand for lodging increased so did the size of the Alley. For nearly twenty years, Reeder continued to expand his hostelry. A series of devastating fires brought the demise of 'Bridge Street,' but the Alley was spared each time.

Today, Reeder's Alley is a restored miner's village consisting of office rentals, a restaurant and a restored and furnished miner's cabin.

Location Address

HELENA, Montana 59601
County: Lewis and Clark
Region: Region 3 – GOLD WEST

Contact Details

Montana Film Office
Department of Commerce
301 S. Park
Helena, MT 59601
Contact Phone: (800) 553-4563
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