The nooks and crannies of the mountains and valleys around Helena hide a plethora of human history. This year's Hidden Helena tour is aimed at bringing those unknown spots into the light.

On Sept. 28 from 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., historic buildings rarely open to the public will be part of a tour focused on the surviving history and heritage of the Helena area.

There are 21 buildings scattered throughout the Helena area on the tour list this year, including one-room schoolhouses, ranches, log cabins, mansions and cemeteries. 

"They're spread out in rural Helena," said Madie Westrom, the Montana Preservation Alliance's outreach coordinator.

Westrom said last year's Hidden Helena tour of underground spaces in the downtown area was very popular, so the MPA decided to put another tour together.

"It's from Marysville to Unionville, including York and Canyon Ferry," Westrom said of 2019's tour.

Hidden Helena will be an all-day, self-guided tour that gives people the freedom to roam around the buildings and places set up for visitors. Unlike bus tours, the self-guided tour gives tourists the option to do what they want for as long as they want. 

One of the areas with a high concentration of sites to visit is Marysville. Located under the Drumlummon Mine and Great Divide Ski Area, Marysville is a small community keeping its history alive, and Tammy Bridges, president of the Marysville Museum, is leading the charge. 

"There's continual maintenance of the town itself," Bridges said. 

Bridges started the Marysville Museum in 2014 as part of her goal to keep Marysville's history understood and remembered. 

"We want to preserve things that were built, and maintain structures to keep history alive," Bridges said.

The Drumlummon Mine looms large in Marysville's history. Thomas Cruse, the owner of the mine and the man who helped build the Helena Cathedral, had a major impact on Helena because of the wealth he pulled from his gold mine, Bridges said. 

"It's having people know the impact that the mining industry did have, not just here, but in Helena also," Bridges said.

Westrom said the MPA enjoys putting on these kinds of tours that take people to places like Marysville because they are "such great base level preservation events."

By getting people on the ground and in contact with history, Westrom said, people become more invested in their local world.

David Wolstein, a board member in charge of preserving the Little Red Schoolhouse on Sierra Road, is another proponent of that connection to local history.

"If you don't know here you're coming from, you don't know where you're going," Wolstein said.

Built in 1888, the Little Red Schoolhouse started its life as a classic Western one-room schoolhouse, teaching kids from all around the Helena Valley before becoming a community center after 1920. In the late 1970s, Wolstein relates, a group of Helenans looked at the schoolhouse and decided to restore it, making it into a functional community center.

"People use it for weddings, funerals, graduations," Wolstein said about the restored schoolhouse. 

The importance of the community connections was what brought it back to life.

"One hundred and forty years later and it's still there for the people and the community, for the Western way of life," Wolstein said. 

Registration is open and costs $32 per person. For more information, or to register for the tour visit http://www.preservemontana.org/hidden-helena-2019 or call 406-457-2822.

All proceeds from this event will go directly to historic preservation efforts in communities across Montana.

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Crime and Health Reporter

Crime and health reporter for the Helena Independent Record.

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