Fire Tower Park and More of Downtown Helena, Montana

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After seeing the Cathedral of St. Helena, I went on to what originally drew me out of the house on this fine afternoon: Fire Tower Park. From there, I continued through the Helena Historic District, finding some pleasant surprises along the way.

Fire Tower Park

After the Cathedral of St. Helena, I walked the few blocks down to Fire Tower Park which is exactly what you think it is: a defunct fire watch tower that once guarded the city.

Fire Tower Park in Helena

Unfortunately, they don’t let you climb it or even get too close to it anymore; an old wooden structure that’s been standing since 1874 probably isn’t what we in the biz would call “structurally sound”, especially after an arson attempt within the last few years.

Last year, the city was fielding bids to demolish and rebuild the regionally-iconic tower (source: Helena Independent Record). Like a lot of historic structures, the debate rages on whether it should be preserved because history, or whether it should be knocked down before it collapses and kills someone.

Light stuff in this week’s blog.

Fire Tower Park in Helena

Fire Tower Park in Helena

No matter your opinion on building preservation policy, the tower was placed here because it’s a great vantage point for the whole area. From here, I could see most of the old Downtown area.

Downtown Helena, Montana

I added the above photo as the header image on the Wikitravel page for Helena. The one it replaced was grainy and dull. At the time of writing this, apparently my edits did not take because there’s no image on the page at all. If anyone here can tell me how the Wikitravel contribution system makes even one iota of sense, please leave a comment. Nuclear missile launch sequences are less convoluted than that site.

Downtown Helena, Montana

The last thing I saw at Fire Tower Park was a dog. I forget her name, but she was a black puppy who was happier about her orange frisbee that I think I’ve ever seen any other living being.

Dog at Fire Tower Park in Helena


Helena itself, as I mentioned in the last post, is a pretty old city. A lot of the buildings date back to the Gold Rush so while they’re maybe not world-famous, they’re still architecturally interesting. For example, The Montana Club (that’s literally its name):

Montana Building

I’ve heard from people (read: my parents) that, until fairly recently, you had to be a millionaire to join. Not pictured are the tile swastikas on the entry way floor that were added before WW2, when they meant good luck and prosperity.

Every now and again, I take pictures that just makes me laugh. On this day, I passed the Montana Democrats’ office on the Ped Mall.

Montana Democrats

For those who don’t get why I find this humorous, Montana is a very old-school conservative state. Despite having one Democrat Senator (Jon Tester, D-MT), they’re very big on 2nd Amendment Rights and smaller government. Finding this office felt a bit like finding a PETA booth at a rib festival. 

Or, as Tobias Fünke might say:

via Gfycat

Then I found graffiti, which seemed out of place for a small town in Montana. Though, in true Montana fashion, it was 9/11 Memorial graffiti. 

Grafitti in Helena, Montana

Grafitti in Helena, Montana

Helena Civic Center – Don’t scroll down


Don’t scroll down!

What’s the absolute last thing you’d expect to see in a small town in Montana? 

A movie star?

A palm tree?

You’re wrong.

It’s a minaret.

Helena Civic Center (former Mosque)

The Helena Civic Center was originally called The Algeria Shrine Temple and was built in 1921 by the Arabic Order of the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine. At one point, it was the 9th largest auditorium in the US seating 2,608 people. Not long after being built, it was sold to the city where it lives on as the public events space. The minaret is 17 stories tall.

Helena Civic Center (former Mosque)

What’s funny is that, despite the clearly religious connotations of the building, nobody seems to bat an eye at it much anymore. People just kind of go “Oh, yeah. That’s the Civic Center.” and go on to the next thought.

Read more? Yeah, read more.

Did you come here via the Faraway Files or The Weekly Postcard? Statistically, you did. But if you didn’t, click on one of the badges below to see what others who are exploring more far-flung and exotic places wrote this week. 

Oregon Girl Around the World
Two Traveling Texans



  1. Such an interesting place! I’m not sure how I feel about the fire tower, but I agree it’s a great view. The civic center is quite unique. Thanks for sharing on #TheWeeklyPostcard

  2. Definitely didn’t see that when I stopped in Helena! The views are nice though! Thanks for linking up with #TheWeeklyPostcard!

  3. It’s apparently been too long since I’ve passed through Helena – I remember the Fire Tower Park, but don’t recall the civic center at all. And you’d think that would stand out – figuratively speaking. We know it stands out literally! 😉 Thanks for linking up with #TheWeeklyPostcard!

  4. My uncle spent a summer in Oregon watching for forest fires in a tower similar to that. My dad who was working in the local sawmill, would stay with him on weekends. Always have a soft spot for seeing the old fire towers. Although with the prevalence of forest fires out west, I think the hazards of the job less make the idea of staying in one a little less sentimental. Montana is a beautiful state – that is for sure. Thanks for sharing a little local flavor from Helena. #FarawayFiles

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