Helena, Montana, (population 25,780) was once the “Queen City of the Rockies” due to the boom sparked by an 1864 gold strike. But when the ore played out, the city fought off becoming a ghost town, leveraging its central location to reemerge as a territorial banking and commercial center.
Helena was incorporated in 1881. It became the state capital in 1894, five years after Montana achieved statehood, and also serves as the county seat of Lewis and Clark County. Visitors can experience Helena’s past by viewing a number of 19th century mansions, historic mining-era businesses, and restored pioneer dwellings.
The imposing St. Helena Cathedral—modeled after the cathedral in Cologne, Germany—overlooks the downtown area. Nearby, the original governor’s mansion and the copper-domed State Capitol Building are popular heritage tourism destinations, as are the Montana Historical Museum and shops in the downtown area known as Last Chance Gulch.
Helena’s downtown History Center features historical displays and offers information to travelers. A summer Tour Train takes visitors through historic neighborhoods and the downtown area.
The surrounding Lewis and Clark County offers a wide range of activities for outdoor and history enthusiasts, including 5,460-foot Mount Helena overlooking the city, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Designated a Preserve America Community in November 2008.