Reeder’s Alley – Helena, Montana


We have the tendency to just hop in the truck on the spur of the moment and head out to see things.
In Montana it’s pretty easy to do, especially when we’re surrounded by so much great history.

On this particular road trip, we were driving up from Bozeman after a Twitter meet-up and we ended up in Helena to try to get Dustin a tour of the Capital Building before it closed. As one might have guessed, being since it was the weekend, we missed the visiting time and the Capital Building was closed.

No worries, because Helena has a few other pretty interesting places to visit.

We ended up at Reeder’s Alley

Reeder’s Alley – Helena, Montana 2022 (tap or click image to enlarge)

Pennsylvanian, Louis Reeder built this quaint collection of tiny row house apartments that once housed miners and, later, single men of varied occupations. At one time some thirty-two one-room apartments spread along the narrow alley in various buildings. Less than half remain. During those days, as with other services, rent was paid in gold dust. Other landmarks included in this little area include the historic Morelli Bridge and the Stone House. –

The narrow alleyway and closely spaced buildings nestled against the slope of Mount Helena today comprise the town’s most complete remaining block of the territorial period.

Legend and lore:

Reeder’s Alley – Helena, Montana (tap or click image to enlarge)

Laura and George Duchesnay bought the stone house in the early 1900s. Laura loved animals, and she soon filled the home with singing yellow canaries.
These birds ended up having another so-called covert and sneakier purpose. Rumor has it that, during Prohibition, Laura would hang some of her canary cages outside the house to let people know that a new shipment of illegal liquor had arrived.
When the alley was alive with the sound of canaries singing, the locals knew it was time to belly up to the bar.

According to local legend, the birds’ songs filled the stone house even years after Laura’s death. In fact, a few visitors reported hearing their ghostly chirps many years later when the building became a restaurant.

While there’s no proof that Laura was actually using her birds to sell her high-proof bootlegged liquor — nor is there proof of any ghost birds in the alley — evidence suggests that at least one of these things is true.

In 2008, when the stone house was being renovated, people discovered a pair of pits concealed beneath the floor. These secret compartments were just the right size for stashing illegal liquor.

Reeder’s Alley – Helena, Montana 2022 (tap or click image to enlarge)

As a young Montanan of 15 years, Dustin is extremely interested in his home, and Reeder’s Alley is one of the things that he hopes to show his kids in the future when I’m long gone. I snapped a few pictures that day compared to Dustin’s 10’s of dozens of pictures. I hope that Reeder’s Alley will still be around in the distant future, and not go away like Frontier Town and the Columbia Gardens did all of those many years ago.

Montana is a small town with long streets, so nearly everything we see and do here is classified as local. I don’t think that there are too many states in the Union where you can vacation local like you can in Montana.

In December 2000, Darrell and Kathy Gustin, then owners of Reeder’s Alley, donated the Reeder’s Alley properties to the Montana Heritage Commission.

The buildings in Reeder’s Alley are designated as an historic district listed in the National Register of Historic Places with the National Park Service.


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