Electric Block
aka Electric Light Building and Electric Building
North Park at Sixth
1890-1974


Built 1888 to 1890, the Electric Building (later called the Electric Block) had coal-fired steam dynamos in the basement that generated much of Helena's electricity until 1898, when hydroelectric power from the first Canyon Ferry Dam came online. The building also housed businesses, offices and apartments. In 1891, the Montana Senate met there.

The disused 120-foot tall stone and brick chimney was removed in 1905, accompanied by extensive renovations. In 1910, an additional story was added, along with more renovations, including the installation of an automatic elevator, the first of its kind in Helena. In 1911, the Helena YWCA was first organized in one room of the Electric Block.

Helena Baby Boomers may recall having their photos taken at the Swenson-James Studio.

 

The Electric Block, May 1937


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

 

Site of the Electric Block

 

 

Elevator in the Electric Block, 1970s


COURTESY OF ROBIN EVANS

 


COURTESY OF ROBIN EVANS




Demolition of the Electric Block, 1974

On January 7, 1974 the City Commission awarded a contract for demolition of the Electric
Block and the Electric Block annex to the Norman Rogers Mining Co. of Helena for $57,800. Rogers was the low bidder.

In 1977, a parking garage was built on the site. Contractors ran into problems while setting footings for the garage, encountering stubborn sub-basements and mining tunnels.


Post-Demolition, about 1980


PHOTO BY KENNON BAIRD