Historic Helena home faces possible demolition

Hedges House
Posted at 10:43 AM, Sep 12, 2022
and last updated 2022-09-12 12:43:57-04

HELENA — One of Helena’s oldest neighborhoods is facing a change. The Cornelius Hedges house, located on the corner of Broadway and Rodney Street, is facing possible demolition.

The 320 E. Broadway house was built in 1878 for Cornelius Hedges. According to historians, Hedges was one of the first lawyers to practice in Helena, he was a superintendent of schools before Montana became a state, and he was a member of of the Washburn-Langford-Doane Party that explored what we now know as Yellowstone National Park.

“Is there anything in Yellowstone National Park that acknowledges Hedges? There’s nothing, this is it,” Lewis and Clark County Heritage Preservation Officer Pam Attardo said.

Like many of the other homes and buildings in the Rodney Street area, the Hedges House does not look exactly like it did when first built. The original home had brick siding and a cupola atop it.

Hedges’ son turned the home into a four-flex in the 1920s. The entire project—including maple hardwood flooring, new kitchens and bathrooms in each unit, fixtures and electric wiring—cost an estimated $1,600 at the time. Some of that original work is still in the apartments today.

“If you go through the house, you see all these French doors with Art Deco door knobs,” Attardo said.

Two major earthquakes in 1935 took down the home’s brick siding. Attardo said homes throughout the Rodney Street area bear signs of post-earthquake repair in new siding and stucco.

“That’s how people reacted to making repairs after the earthquake,” Attardo said.

While appearance changes are noting new in the neighborhood, Attardo said demolition is not common.

“I’ve been the historic preservation officer for 10 years,” Attardo said. “I do not recall a demolition.”

Plans have been submitted to the city of Helena to demolish the Hedges House and replace it with an 8-unit apartment complex.

The current home has sat vacant for years. It was deemed uninhabitable after a fire in 2018, but it has not been condemned.

Plans for the new construction do include some pieces of the historic home, like the portico out front.

“It’s kind of an homage to the house,” Attardo said. “But, it’s obviously not the house, it’s just pieces.”

The future of the Hedges house is now up to the Helena City Commission. They will consider the plans for new construction and public comment, then make a decision at a meeting.