The First Helena High School
1893 to 1935 • Demolished in 1976
46°35'23.69"N 112° 2'6.41"W

Helena High School, circa 1898


COLLECTION OF KENNON BAIRD • CLICK ON IMAGE FOR A BIG VIEW IN A NEW WINDOW

Completed in 1893, the first Helena High School was located on the southwest corner of Lawrence and N. Warren. It was designed by Helena-based architect John C. Paulsen. The cornerstone was laid on October 25, 1890, but legal and political wrangling over cost overruns delayed total completion of the project until 1893.

The site for both the High School and adjacent Central School was the city's first cemetery. Most of the remains were moved to the Benton Avenue, Forestvale and Home of Peace cemeteries, but it is likely that remains are still buried on the grounds.

In 1935, the 1893 High School was replaced by a new building, on Rodney St. at Helena Avenue. The old school was used for various activities before it was demolished in 1976, after a legal battle between the School Board and local presrvationists.

In September of 1983, due to the completion of Cruse Avenue from Sixth Ave. to Helena Ave., the Domestic Science (Home Economics) building was moved about 1.25 miles north to the Bill Roberts Golf Course.



Footprint of the 1893 Helena High School


 

A Description of the New School
The Daily Independent, July 20, 1890

Click on Image to Open PDF File


LIBRARY OF CONGRESS



Helena High School Under Construction, 1890
Seen from the South

COURTESY OF CHARLEEN SPALDING

 


Grave Discovered During Construction, 1890

LIBRARY OF CONGRESS

 

An 1890s Lithograph


LITHOGRAPH BY WARD BROS., COLUMBUS OHIO - COLLECTION OF KENNON BAIRD



U. S. Weather Bureau Signal Flags Flown from Building



Helena High School, ca. 1900


COLLECTION OF KENNON BAIRD

 


Interior of the old High School


COURTESY OF AUB KIRKLAND • CLICK ON IMAGE FOR A BIG VIEW IN A NEW WINDOW



Helena High School Chemistry Laboratory, 1908


COLLECTION OF KENNON BAIRD • CLICK ON IMAGE FOR A BIG VIEW IN A NEW WINDOW

 


Former President Theodore Rooselvelt on the High School Steps, 1911


FROM "HELENA", A POSTCARD HISTORY, COURTESY OF AUTHOR TOM MULVANEY
CLICK IMAGE ABOVE FOR A BIG VIEW IN A NEW WINDOW

Former U. S. President Theodore Roosevelt spoke from the Warren St. steps of the High School on April 12, 1911. Colonel Roosvelt was in Helena for one day, on the final leg of a long western tour. According to newspaper reports, Roosevelt was quite busy during his visit. He was driven up and down Main St. during a brief snowstorm, visited the Montana Club, Fort Harrison, the Federal Building and the City Auditorium, where he met with a convention of Civil War veterans. He also dined at the home of his old friend, Montana rancher Conrad Kohrs. A planned drive across the Helena Valley to visit the Missouri River dams was cancelled. Roosevelt left Helena, via private rail car, around midnight.



Helena High School pennant, ca. 1915

 



Souvenir pin tray, about 1900

Probably manufactured in Germany.

 

 

Aerial View of Helena High School, 1934


COURTESY OF WENDI KOTTAS PETERSON CLICK ON IMAGE FOR A BIG VIEW IN A NEW WINDOW

 

Helena High School, 1934

One year before the great earthquakes. Compare this to the 1973 image below, also showing the north side of the building, to see how much architectural detail was lost in the quakes.



Old Helena High School from Lawrence St., winter 1973-74


PHOTO BY WALLACE "SKIP" MILLEGAN (1951-1982) • COLLECTION OF KENNON BAIRD




Old Helena High School, 1976
Photos by Patty Dean


As seen from the west

 


Where Theodore Roosevelt stood and spoke in 1911

 


Turret on the southeast corner

 


North side, facing Lawrence St.

Old Helena High School Demolition, 1976
Photos by Henry W. Jorgensen

 

 

 

 

 

 


Preservationists Tell Why the Old Building Was Razed, 1976

Grave Discovered When Moving School Administration Building, 1983

Building Pictured Circa 1917


MONTANA MILITARY MUSEUM

Built as the "Domestic Science" (Home Economics) cottage for Helena High School, the brick building on Allen St. served as administrative offices for the Helena School District from 1935 until about 1983. The expansion of Cruse Avenue from Sixth Avenue to Helena Avenue in 1983 necessitated the moving of the building. During that process, a grave from the original city cemetery was disturbed by earth-moving equipment.


COURTESY OF CHARLEEN SPALDING • CLICK ON IMAGE TO OPEN A BIG VERSION IN A NEW WINDOW


Reminders and Remnants of the Old School

Cornerstone Moved to Current Helena High, 1976


Some of the golden oak flooring from the building was salvaged and used as a back bar in "Ichabod's", a pub in the Arcade Building, on the downtown walking mall. The pub is long gone.

 

Embossed Sidewalk on Lawrence Street


COURTESY OF TOM KILMER



Stone From the Old School Can Be Seen Around Helena
Three Photos by Ellen Baumler • November 2011

People were evidently allowed to haul away stone from the rubble of the demolished High School. As well as being of sentimental and historical value, much of it was put to practical use...


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