Helena Middle School – Helena MT


The PWA allotted funds toward the construction of the $510,000 Helena high school, which was built between 1934 and 1935. A 1939 survey of PWA works described the school’s construction:

“The high school was rehabilitated and designed to resist earthquakes. The brick walls were removed, and reinforced concrete substituted with special column and beam reinforcing. The building was divided into individual units separated by 4-inch spaces.

The projects were completed in January 1938 at an estimated construction cost of $146,476 and a project cost of $157,504.”   (Short and Brown)

The building didn’t last long in its original form… Helenahistory.org reports that: “Dedicated on September 21 1935, the new building was heavily damaged by the October 1935 earthquakes. According to post-quake estimates by U. S. Army engineers, it was about 75% destroyed.”

Reconstruction of the building took two years. The high school was relocated in 1955, at which point the building became the Helena Junior High School. The building houses the middle school to this day.

Source notes

1) C.W. Short and R. Stanley-Brown. "Public Buildings: A Survey of Architecture of Projects Constructed by Federal and Other Governmental Bodies Between the Years 1933 and 1939 with the Assistance of the Public Works Administration." (1939).
2) http://www.helenahistory.org/helena_high_school_2.htm
3) "Road and Oil Projects Under Way Call for Expenditure of $4,000,000"; Big Timber Pioneer, Sept. 13, 1934 (page 1)

Project originally submitted by Evan Kalish on January 10, 2014.

We welcome contributions of additional information on any New Deal project site.


Location Info

1025 N. Rodney St.
Helena, MT 59601

Coordinates: 46.5953513, -112.0256832

One comment on “Helena Middle School – Helena MT

  1. Douglass Halvorsen

    I read some great information on the history of this middle school from the Helenahistory.org website: http://www.helenahistory.org/helena_high_school_2.htm which posted a newspaper article from 1935 regarding the circumstances surrounding the fallout from the earthquake that destroyed 75% of the school. The blame was attributed to three entities from a third-party investigation done by a structural engineer from Los Angeles.. He blamed the architect for “improper design”, the contractor for “unintelligent use of materials” and the PWA labor force for “poor workmanship and construction.” In essence, The Independent, the Helena newspaper which published the article, states that unskilled PWA laborers were hired for jobs in the construction of the school for which they had no business being in. Unfortunately, the focus of the PWA was to put men to work and that focus resulted in men performing jobs who “could not last an hour in the work they attempted to do, under private employment.” This poorly-trained, unskilled labor force was obviously a black eye to the overall positive contributions that the PWA produced in the 1930s.

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