It's pretty easy to overlook diminutive Helena as you zip by on the interstate, but you'd be doing yourself a grave disservice. Penetrate through the drab, utilitarian commerce sprawl toward Last Chance Gulch and old Helena where imposing brick and stone buildings – all arches and angles – portray a resolute commitment to permanence.
The gold found here in 1864 proved to be the second-largest placer deposit in Montana. As thousands of miners flooded in, the original founders saw the future in commerce and established Helena as a financial center supporting mining operations throughout the region.
Eleven years later, Helena was selected as the capital of the new Montana territory, and its fate was sealed as lawyers and statesman began building Italianate and Queen Anne–style mansions on the hills above the gulch.