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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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):
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.
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:
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.
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?
It’s a minaret.
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.
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.
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