April 3, 2015

What are you having for Easter dinner?

by Barbara Pepper Rotness, MHS Research Center Reference Librarian

According to the Secretary of State's Business Entity webpage, the first incorporation papers filed with the newly-established State of Montana, in November 1889, were for the Helena Hotel Company. Officially becoming an incorporated business on November 8, 1889 - the same date that Montana became a state - the hotel didn't open for business until the following year and held its grand opening on February 3, 1890.

According to the Helena Independent newspaper, dated November 12, 1911,
"The Helena Hotel on Grand Street, which for many years, under the management of L.A. Walker, was the finest hotel in the state. It was about the Helena Hotel that the great political fights of early statehood days centered, and in the lobby of this hotel during state conventions and legislative sessions could be found practically every man of prominence in the state."         
1894 Helena Polk City Directory,
"Presented by Cornelius Hedges"

Built of brick and standing five stories tall, the Helena Hotel provided high-quality amenities, such as passenger and freight elevators, steam heat, and electric light.

This ad (right) from the 1894 Helena Polk City Directory boasts that the Helena Hotel is "The Only First Class Hotel in the City." At that time, the charges for a stay at the Helena Hotel started at $3.00 per day. Baths and private parlors were extra.

Unfortunately, the Helena Hotel was gutted by a fire on February 4, 1912 and the decision was made to not restore that business.

The Montana Historical Society has this remnant of the Helena Hotel from its heyday -  an 1894 Easter holiday dinner invitation and menu (below).

This multi-course meal certainly sounds first-class; however, the types of foods (such as, Sea Turtle) were commonly listed on other menus of the time.

Look for more menus in the Ephemera files at the Montana Historical Society Research Center.