In Part 1 of what to do in Helena Montana, I recommended five sites to visit if you find yourself in Helena in the winter months (during summer, a lot more options are available). My previous recommendations are awesome, but my favorite activity in Helena was walking around looking at all the stunning mansions in the area! As I mentioned in my previous post, by 1888, Helena had the most per capita millionaires than any city in the world and they certainly built houses to back up that claim.
There are two sections of Helena that have stunning homes and mansions. Here are a few highlights from the West Residential area located on the lower slopes of Mount Helena City Park, west of downtown. I’ll tackle the mansions in Helena’s downtown in a later post.
Tracy-Power Residence: This three story Queen Anne style home was constructed for George and Eva Tracy in 1892, just prior to the economic collapse dubbed the “Panic of 1893.” The Tracys earned their fortune through wholesale food distribution. Widowed in 1907, Eva continued to live in the home until 1912 when she sold it to Sarah E. Power, sister of U.S. Senator T. C. Power. The home was purchased by Jos. E. Bower of the Bower Brothers Sheep Company in 1920 although the property returned to the Powells in 1955, when Thomas C. Powell, grand-nephew of Senator T.C. Powell, purchased the property. He lived there until 2004 when it was sold to an undisclosed buyer. It is still a private residence and the ghost of T.C. Powell is said to haunt the mansion.
Edward C. Babcock Mansion: Perhaps not the most attractive exterior on the block, it was interesting as it had two gargoyles on the front porch! They were frightening! I’m thinking Mr. Babcock didn’t like visitors! ha, ha, ha.
Tatem-Young Residence: Benjamin and Lydia Mears Tate came west as newlyweds in 1869. The Tatems built their fortune through mining operations and built this stunning Tudor style home in 1895. Tatem died in 1915 and in 1922, at the age of 82, Lydia Tatem was killed when she fell beneath the wheels of the Kenwood streetcar at Benton and Lawrence in downtown Helena. The house was purchased by Lt. General Samuel Baldwin Marks Young and Anne Dean Huntley Young. In 1956, Carroll College purchased the residence from Ellen Dean Child Nichols, Mrs. Young’s niece.
Alex C. Johnson Residence: Senator T.C. Power met A.C. Johnson in Chicago and taking a liking to the young man, offered him a job out west. The nineteen-year-old came to work as the chief clerk at Power’s Fort Benton Mercantile in 1879. Johnson rose to direct Power’s American National Bank and its successor, the First National Bank of Montana. Dubbed the “Dean of Montana’s bankers,” Johnson believed a banker’s responsibility was to those who trusted him with their money (wow, what a concept! I feel we’re a far cry from that now.). His home, built in 1892, mirrored the image Johnson cultivated for his financial institutions: strong, fortress-like and invincible. In 1927, banker Henry Hale Piggott and his family took up residence here with his wife and three daughters. In 1956, the Episcopal diocese bought the residence.
Has anyone been to Helena, Montana? Did you see any of these properties? Your thoughts?
More shortly on the mansions of downtown Helena, including the Old Governor’s Mansion!