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Historic downtown Helena home up for demolition

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A hearing regarding the demolition of 320 E. Broadway,

A hearing regarding the demolition of 320 E. Broadway, the historic house of Cornelius Hedges, will be held 5:30 p.m. Tuesday at the City-County Building.

Owners of a house in Helena's Rodney Street neighborhood that once belonged to a member of a historic Yellowstone exploration party are requesting permission to demolish the two-story structure.

Located at 320 E. Broadway St., the building weathered a fire in 2018, was sold in 2019 and has stood unoccupied ever since.

The Heritage Tourism Council (HTC) is expected to make a formal recommendation after hearing presentations from the applicants and Helena/Lewis and Clark County Heritage Preservation Officer Pam Attardo during its second public hearing on the matter slated for Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. in room 234 of the City-County Building, 316 N. Park Ave.

Several real estate websites list the home as being built in 1882. However, the Montana Historical Society says in an online posting it was built in 1878. 

The demolition permit applicant and owner, Bent Tree Enterprises, intends to level the now converted four-unit multifamily dwelling and build an eight-unit apartment building, according to a Lewis and Clark County Heritage Tourism Council staff report.

The request must first go through the Heritage Tourism Council so that it may make a recommendation regarding the building's historical significance prior to the Helena City Commission's ultimate approval or denial of the demolition permit.

Attardo said the house once belonged to Cornelius Hedges, "a Montana pioneer of local, state and national significance."

She said Hedges was part of the Doane-Washburn party that explored what is now Yellowstone National Park and is credited with the idea of setting Yellowstone aside as the first national park. 

"It is a nationally significant property," Attardo said.

She said Bent Tree representatives and project architect Mike Dowling have seemed sensitive to historic preservation concerns, and the staff report noted they met with "Historic Preservation staff to discuss potential revisions to the new building design, including a flat roof design, on July 26."

At the council's first public hearing, which was July 12, six members of the public spoke in opposition to the proposed demolition, saying the new building should fit in with the surrounding neighborhood. The HTC recommended denial of the permit and provided eight recommendations if the commission approves the demolition, according to an Aug. 8 Helena/Lewis and Clark County Historic Preservation staff report.

People can join the meeting online via Zoom at https://us06web.zoom.us/j/84974325912?pwd=eEFMaGdXc2hnaHlDM1B4SWZFQ05wdz09. The meeting ID is 849 7432 5912 and the passcode is 658923.

Staff writer Phil Drake contributed to this story.

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Local Government Reporter

Nolan Lister is a reporter at the Helena Independent Record with an emphasis on local government and crime.

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