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5 Facts About Montana's Capital: How Well Do You Know Helena?

By    |   Monday, 13 April 2015 06:44 PM

From its accidental founding to the world’s largest indoor pool, Montana’s capital city – which once boasted more millionaires per capita than anywhere else on earth – has a story that shakes, rattles and rolls. Just a few facts about Helena begin to reveal its storied and unique history.

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1. Helena was founded by accident by four Georgia men who decided to take one last chance in their search for gold. As BigSkyFishing.com tells the story, they found gold (and named the place Last Chance Gulch). Other miners heard about it, and Helena was soon a boomtown.

Government, as it will, followed the gold; with all the miners moving in to Helena, it was decided to move the territorial capital from Virginia City, near Montana’s first big gold strike (which was petering out).

2. Montana’s capital owes its name to Minnesota. It was almost named Crabtown (after one of the four Georgia miners). Pumpkinville and Squashtown were also names considered for the capital, or so says BigSkyFishing.com. But most of the miners were Minnesotans, and started to call the town Saint Helena, after the town in Minnesota. The “Saint” part was dropped, and Helena it became.

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3. Helenans turn their used Christmas trees into homes for fish. The annual “Pines for Perch” program collects trees – or you can take them in yourself. The trees are then taken to Canyon Ferry Lake where the Fish Wildlife & Parks Department sink bundles of them as homes for perch.

4. Helena was once home to the largest indoor swimming pool in the world – in 1889. The “Natatorium” at the Hotel Broadwater was fed by more than 1 million gallons of hot spring water per day, according to a Helena historical website. Hotel guests could also ride electric trolleys to and from downtown Helena. The hotel, never on sound financial footing, was heavily damaged by earthquakes in 1935 and the natatorium was knocked down in 1946. The hotel itself was demolished in 1974.

5. Helena was struck by three earthquakes in October 1935, and photos displayed on the Helena History website show heavy damage to buildings and houses. The quake on Oct. 12 measured 5.9 on the newly developed Richter Scale, the one on the 19th measured 6.3, and the Halloween quake measured 6.0. By comparison, the devastating quake that struck the San Francisco Bay area in October 1989 measured 6.9 on the Richter scale, according to the National Institutes of Standards and Technology.

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From its accidental founding to the world's largest indoor pool, Montana's capital city - which once boasted more millionaires per capita than anywhere else on earth - has a story that shakes, rattles and rolls. Here's a few facts about Helena.
facts, montana, capital, helena
Monday, 13 April 2015 06:44 PM
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