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Power Block & Power Block West - Helena, MT
Posted by: Groundspeak Premium Member BK-Hunters
N 46° 35.358 W 112° 02.327
12T E 420423 N 5160050
Quick Description: Built in 1889, the Power Block was just one of several large commercial blocks which were being constructed at the time in the booming city of Helena.
Location: Montana, United States
Date Posted: 3/29/2019 6:26:50 PM
Waymark Code: WM109YM
Published By: Groundspeak Premium Member ZenPanda
Views: 0

Long Description:
The very impressive Power Block was built by the partnership of T.C. Power and M.H. Keefe. T. C. (Thomas Charles) Power, who became a United States Senator, was an ambitious entrepreneur who made a fortune in the emerging state of Montana, though many who knew him found it difficult or impossible to speak well of him. Little, if anything, is known of Keefe. The difference in stature of the two men can be deduced from the fact that the name plaque on the building reads Power Building, with no mention of Keefe, while contemporary news items referred to the building as the Power-Keefe Block.
POWER BLOCK & POWER BLOCK WEST

Influential merchant and investor T. C. Power built his fortunes by controlling much of territorial Montana’s commerce and Indian trade. This outstanding granite business block housed Power’s American National Bank from 1892 through the 1920s. Willetts and Ashley of Chicago drew the plans for the 1889 building, which reflects both the Romanesque Revival style and the American transition to the then-emerging Chicago School of architecture. The rounded northeast corner features openings that correspond in number to the floor level. The Power Block West, built to match the original design, was added in 1914.
From the NRHP plaque at the building
Power Block, 58–62 North Last Chance Gulch and Sixth Avenue Annex (1889)
“Merchant prince” T. C. Power began freighting goods out of Fort Benton. Diverse business interests led to his control over much of territorial commerce and political success as the state’s first senator. The grand Power Block is evidence of the man’s powerful influence. Designed by Willetts and Ashley of Chicago, the Power Block represents the transition from Romanesque Revival to the Chicago School. Note that the corner door and window openings correspond to the floor numbers. The four-story annex, built in 1914 to complement its neighbor, features two Sixth Avenue copper-framed storefronts.
From the Helena Walking Tour
Probably the best example of Richardsonian Romanesque architecture in the city, of which there are many, the power block is very fortunate to be with us today. In 1908 Helena's last major fire destroyed the rest of the block on the west side of Last Chance Gulch to the south of the building, leaving only the Power Block standing, due, in all likelihood, to its thick stone walls. In 1908 and 1909 the rest of the block was filled back in with five stone and brick buildings, all of which still stand.

PIC Among many other titles, T.C. Power was president of the American National Bank of Helena and in 1891 or 1892 he opened said bank in the building. We don't know if it was skullduggery and double dealing or simply ill fortune, but it was around this time that the bank found itself the defendant in more than one lawsuit. We don't know how long the bank remained in the building - an ad from the bank is on the right.

Power, who began as a trader in the Ft. Benton area, established T.C. Power & Bro., one of the two leading companies engaged in the Indian trade throughout northern Montana through the 1860s, 1870s and 1880s. The company dominated regional freighting, steamboating, and mercantile interests during that period. After moving to Helena in 1875, Power invested heavily in Helena businesses, area mines and real estate interests. At the height of his career, Power erected not only the Power Block which bore his name, but four other major business blocks which dominated the commercial district. In 1892, he opened the American National Bank in the Power Block, one of several major banks which established Helena as the financial heart of Montana.
From the NRHP Registration Form
The smaller annex (power Block West) on the west side of the building, the Power Block Annex, was added in 1914.
Name	  Power Block
Date	  1889
Style	  Richardson Romanesque
Architect Shaffer & Read
Builder

An old landmark in Helena. The best example of the rugged Romanesque type of architecture popularized by H. H. Richardson. Other examples of this exist in Chicago in the Marshall Field Store and in Hartford Connecticut in the Cheney Block. The Auditorium in Chicago by Adler and Sullivan is also of this basic design.

F. E. Read is probably the real designer of this building, as Shaffer was more of a practical builder. Some of the features often used by Richardson are the battered base of heavy stone, and the scaling down of the masonry proportions on the upper floors. More than any other building this tends to establish the character of the Last Chance Gulch.

The exterior is of heavy timber, probably the first in Helena. This type of mill construction is still valid today.

In 1893 the State Senate met in this building.
From the NRHP Nomination Form

Following are some news articles which further describe the building, as well as one of the hiccups encountered during construction, one of a developer's worst fears - a STRIKE!

A New Business Block
March 07, 1889 | Helena Independent
T. C. Power and M. H. Keefe will begin the erection of a five-story block on the corner of Main street and Sixth avenue as soon as the old building in process of demolition is removed. Tbe building being torn down was occupied as a livery stable by Joseph O'Neill , and is one of tbe oldest landmarks in the city. The lot was purchased by Messrs. Power and Keefe last summer, and where the building which was once the pride of Last Chance Gulch stood will arise a stately edifice showing the progress of our wonderful city.
From the Helena Independent
Four Magnificent Structures Approaching Completion in Helena

October 24, 1889 | Helena Weekly Herald
THE POWER KEEFE BLOCK. The first real six story building erected in Helena is the Power-Keefe block, corner of Main street and Sixth avenue, which is now nearing completion. The owners are T.C. Power and M.H. Keefe. It is unique in that the materials used in its construction are all homemade. The building is of stone throughout, and this stone is a species of porphyry quarried within ten miles of Helena. As a building material it is handsome and substantial. The blocks are square with rough surfaces, while the trimmings show an ornamental carving and cutting that make a beautiful adornment. Around the top of the fifth story runs a coping of smooth cut porphyry, while the divisions of the sixth floor are marked by round columns of the same material supporting symmetrical arches turned in the same stone. The effect is most pleasing and makes the building unquestionably the handsomest stone structure in Helena, barring our granite court house. This block will also be used for stores and offices.
From the Helena Weekly Herald


STONE CUTTERS STRIKE

August 16, 1889 | The Helena Independent
On Tuesday the stone cutters employed at the yard on Helena avenue in cutting granite for the Power & Keefe block went out on a strike. The men are members of the National Stone Cutters' union and their grievance was against Shaffer & Read, architects, who have the contract for the building. This firm had an advertisement inserted in the Minneapolis Journal for fifty non-union stone cutters, and stated that $5 to $6 per day would be paid for good men.

At the quarry from which the stone is being taken, about three and one-half miles southeast of this city, Shaffer & Read have a crowd of "scab" men at work, it is said, and noticing tbe advertisement in the Minneapolis paper the Helena stone cutters concluded they were to be let out. The contractors sublet the work at the Helena yard to the Helena Co-operative Granite and Sandstone company, of which Henry Duignan is the president and bis brother, James Duignan, is also a member. this company took a contract for two stories of the building and are strong union men, who paid the scale of $5 and received a commission of 50 cents for each stone cutter employed. On Tuesday the stone cutters quit work and sent a note to that effect to Shaffer & Read. Yesterday a delegation of the union called on T. C. Power, and the result was that the stone work was taken away from the architects, and a contract entered into between eighteen of the union men and Mr. Power. Tbe latter was very literal with the men and agreed to Day them $6 per day of ten hours and nine on Saturday, and $12 for working on Sunday. He wants the work rushed and if completed by December 1, will pay the men a large bonus. The work is now entirely in the hands of the union and they will take hold Saturday, when the Duignan Bros will have finished the second story. The union men will clear out the "scabs" at the quarry and put in their own men. The difference in the scale offered by Mr. Power is made up owing to the fact that the men will work ten hours per day, while heretofore they put in but nine hours. Tbe trouble is now over and the Minneapolis men who may have been attracted by the advertisement will be disappointed.
From the Helena Independent

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