Securities Building - Helena, MT
Posted by: Groundspeak Premium Member T0SHEA
N 46° 35.263 W 112° 02.337
12T E 420408 N 5159874
Quick Description: This 1886 Romanesque Revival bank was the fourth try for the First National Bank Of Helena. It was well worth the effort.
Location: Montana, United States
Date Posted: 11/3/2018 10:02:22 PM
Waymark Code: WMZFK9
Published By: Groundspeak Premium Member bluesnote
Views: 0

Long Description:
Chartered on April 5, 1866, with a capitalization of $100,000, this was initially a private bank under the name S.T. Hauser and Company, Samuel T. Hauser being responsible for its organization. The first two buildings, on the corner of of Main and Wall streets, went up in smoke in 1869 and 1874, but each was rebuilt on the same site. Finally, in 1886, this magnificent Romanesque Revival (or Richardsonian Romanesque, depending on who one reads) bank was built at the corner of Main and Grand streets, at a cost of $35,000 to $40,000.

For many years its primary business was the handling of gold dust from the nearby placer diggings. Although initially organized to serve the needs of the mines and miners, the First National Bank grew and changed with the times and shifted its emphasis to serving the growing cattle and sheep industries. The bank sailed along until the "panic of '93", which ultimately took the bank down, along with a great many of its peers.

By 1893, Helena had six national banks and several local banks... ...However, the Panic of 1893 brought an end to this prosperity. During a two week period in July 1893 more than a million dollars in coin and currency were withdrawn from Helena's banks. On July 27, the First National Bank suspended operations. With the cooperation of the Bank's depositors and creditors business was resumed on January 23, 1894... ...In September 1896 the First National Bank closed and a Receiver was appointed. The Bank's failure was due to a combination of national and local problems. Nationally, the currency system and banking laws were inadequate to deal with the major depression of the 1890s. Locally, Helena's economy was in decline. The Bank had been mismanaged for a number of years, with excessive loans granted to bank officers, deficient legal money reserves and excessive overdrafts and overdue paper.
From Archives West
The bank managed to pull itself out of receivership in 1903, continuing in operation in the building until moving to a new Art Deco Building in 1931. A primary contributor to the Helena Historic District, the silvery granite building is richly decorated with contrasting red Wisconsin sandstone. Floral and foliage patterns carved into the sandstone grace the building - above the corner entrance transom, in the beltlines between each floor, in the window frames and elsewhere. Contrasting stonework, checkerboard work under the dormers, Ionic pillars and pilasters, along with the large and monumentally framed Romanesque window openings, finish the building in a manner which would doubtless please the sensibilities of the typical nineteenth century banker.

Note that, in the sandstone beltline above the corner entrance, to its left and right, are two dates. On the left is "1866", the bank's date of organization, while on the right is "1886", the date of completion of this building. The "1886" date also appears above the corner entrance transom.

Today the building continues to serve the city, though not in its original function, having been renovated and converted to apartments and office space.


This magnificent structure was the second home of Montana Territory's first bank, chartered in 1866. Combining Romanesque, French Second Empire and popular Victorian-period stylistic elements, the talented St. Paul firm of Hodgson, Wallingford and Stem created a three-story masterpiece of native granite and brown Wisconsin sandstone. The bank occupied the building from its completion in 1886 to 1931. The Securities Building, as it is known today, stands as witness to Helena's great prosperity in the 1880s.
From the NRHP plaque at the building
Securities Building
Street No.
Original Owner
Original Use
Present Owner
Present Use
Wall Construction
No. of Stories
101 No. Main
First National Bank
Bank and Office Building
Helena First, Inc.
Rental Offices
Brick and Stone

Date or Period
Securities Building
Romanesque Revival
Hodgson, Wallingford & Stem
Shaffer & Weller

Best example of Romanesque Revival architecture, no doubt, influenced by the work of H. H. Richardson of Boston, who more than anyone else instituted a revival of these ancient forms. The round stone arches, the stone columns and the stone capitals along with the decorative stone frieze and cornice are the best examples of that style of architecture that we have in Helena. The dormers and the mansard roof are not Romanesque features but show the influence of French architecture during the period of Napoleon III, and the Beaux-Arts school of architecture.

The tower which dominated the corner is gone but the building is still a valid expression. Architects of the 1880*s were inclined to meld numerous classical styles as suited their fancy. This was a flamboyant period when architects and owners would often vie with each other to produce more striking and arresting buildings. This is a good example.

The granite stone used in the'Securities Building is of local origin and the sandstone is Bayfield brown from Bayfield, Wisconsin.

The top floor of this building was once the long distance telephone exchange.
From the NRHP Registration Form

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Artist: Architects Hodgson, Wallingford & Stem

101 North Main Street
Helena, MT

Web URL to relevant information: [Web Link]

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