Lewis and Clark County (population 56,302) is located in southwestern Montana and was named after the famous leaders of the expedition to the west. The county, established in 1868, has played an integral role in Montana’s history and is an outdoor lover’s paradise, with spectacular views from more than 5,000 feet above sea level. Regular boat tours trace the route of Lewis and Clark along the Missouri River and hikers can walk the same trail Meriwether Lewis took over the Continental Divide on his return trip.
Helena, the largest community and state capital, has been the economic hub of the area since the 1870s. By the turn of the 20th century, cattle and sheep ranching as well as agriculture were thriving.
The Helena/Lewis and Clark County Historic Preservation Commission has been taking an active role in researching and documenting historic landmarks and districts since 1972. Four major historic districts, as well as several individual historic properties, have been listed on the National Register of Historic Places. More than 150 historic properties are currently on the inventory created by the commission. Meeting monthly, the commission reviews projects that may have an impact on historic preservation. It also offers preservation advice to property owners, reviews compatible new construction within historic districts, and promotes historic preservation through events.
One of the more popular annual events in the county is Historic Preservation Week. Activities include tours of historic properties and lectures on preservation. In 2005, the county held a conference about historic Mullan Road, an 1850s military route. The conference drew thousands of people from across the nation. The commission, with help from the County Historical Society, holds walking tours on a regular basis. The historical society also operates a downtown History Center that features displays about local history, including the Lewis and Clark Expedition.
In addition to educating tourists, the county works with students. Currently, local high school students are restoring, researching and helping to display the historic Helena trolley car recently returned to the city. Beginning in 1909, the trolley connected the fairgrounds, Fort Harrison, the Broadwater Hotel, Helena, and the East Helena Smelter. This fleet of trolleys helped southern Lewis and Clark County prosper. In 1927, due to the growing popularity of automobiles, the trolley system was disbanded and sold.
Designated a Preserve America Community in July 2008.