Alley The oldest intact area of early Helena
Alley in the 1970s
BY KENNON BAIRD
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
of Montana since 2000.
Video Clip of Reeder's Alley
- City of Gold", a promotional film produced in 1973 by the
Helena Chamber of commerce.
Historian Ellen Baumler Presents a Short History of Reeder's Alley
Reeder's Alley After the 1935 Earthquakes
CROSS PHOTO, COLLECTION OF KENNON BAIRD CLICK
ON IMAGE TO OPEN A BIG VIEW IN A NEW WINDOW
of Reeder's Alley after the 1935 earthquakes. A Red Cross worker
is seen interviewing residents. There are some interesting details
in this photo, including five cats.
Although we will probably never know for sure, it's possible that
the old man with the cane is Reeder's Alley resident Frank Camden,
84, who was displaced by the earthquakes. Camden was found dead
of natural causes in his new abode on West Main, less than two months
after the quakes. He lived alone and had no known family. The undertaker
found $330 sewn into his vest; in today's money, that is about $5,700
Also notable are the hillside homes in the background.
A Women's History of Helena's First Neighborhood Excellent article by Montana Historical Society
Interpretive Historian Ellen Baumler, highlighting the story
of how women activists saved and preserved Reeder's Alley
Click on image to open PDF file
Discovered Beneath the Stonehouse Restaurant Building, 2008
In May of
2008, two stone-lined pits were discovered beneath the the floor
of the 1870s building which once housed the Stonehouse Restaurant.
here for the story in the Independent Record.
Modern Tale of Reeder's Alley
OF THE LIBERATED FRONT"
SCAM HELENA IN 1969 From Independent
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".
- 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
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.
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...
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
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
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.
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."
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".
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."
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.