Helena’s history is both rich (literally) and storied. There are so many layers – so many possible rabbit holes down which to tumble; it’s hard to know where to begin. Gold. Probably the gold. There was a lot of it at one time – in fact, at one point Helena was home to more millionaires per capita than any other city in the United States. Times were high and happy and the good times were definitely rolling. Little by little, the claims began to lose their yield and the millionaires moved on.
The landscape is covered with reminders of all the hopes, dreams, and ambitions of folks who more than likely risked everything they had with the hope of striking it rich here.
It’s history before your very eyes, and it fades a little more with each passing day. Helena’s oldest buildings bear the marks of businesses that, like the signs, faded away many years ago. What was once certainly a collection of vibrant commercial messages is now a collection of faded vagaries, only half hocking products or businesses that the modern residents of town still recognize. (source)
The devastating fire of July 16, 1928 destroyed the building on this site, along with many others on the west side of Main Street. The F. W. Woolworth Co. store had move into the building just the year previous, in 1927. Undaunted, the Granite Building was rebuilt and F. W. Woolworth moved back into the newly completed building. Woolworth’s would remain in the building until its closing in 1981. (source)
The new Granite Building, being built in the late 1920s, was built in one of the newest styles of the time, Beaux Arts. While the name of the building may have Granite in it, it appears that the building itself has Limestone in it. The building’s face appears to be limestone and was given six recessed decorative panels that would normally be of terra cotta, but here appear to be of limestone. Each panel is above a large window. The six panels across the facade have garlands comprised of fruits which hang between shields, both heart shaped and square. A stepped pediment in the centre has several more decorative panels with shields carved in them, while atop the pediment is a limestone urn sitting on a small plinth flanked by ogee brackets. (source)
Ernie Palmquist opened Palmquist Electric in the 1920’s, and despite being sold in 1978, the company’s mural sign has remained since it was first painted in the 1930’s. Wanting to preserve Ernies legacy, the Palmquist joined forces with local historians and specialists from WallDog Public Art in Iowa to restore the faded sign. Restoration was completed recently with the intent to bring the sign back to life while keeping its well-earned aged look. (source)
In the old days, loaves of Eddy’s bread cost 3 cents a loaf. He operated for many years beneath a house of ill repute known as the Imperial Hotel, across from the Marlowe Theatre on Edwards Street (now the parking lot of the Holiday Inn), where a large brick oven cranked out 2,000 loaves a week — just a preview of the operation that a half-century later would produce one million loaves a week in 15 bakeries. (source)