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Helena, Montana (U.S.)

Lewis and Clark County

Last modified: 2018-08-01 by rick wyatt
Keywords: helena | montana | lewis and clark county |
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[Flag of Helena, Montana] 5:9 image(s) by permission of David B. Martucci
image(s) from American City Flags, Raven 9-10 (2002-2003), courtesy of the North American Vexillological Association, which retains copyright.



See also:


Current Flag

Text and image(s) from American City Flags, Raven 9-10 (2002-2003), courtesy of the North American Vexillological Association, which retains copyright. Image(s) from American City Flags by permission of David B. Martucci.

Design

The flag of Helena has a blue field with a large white disk in the center, bordered in gold. On a field of 5 by 9 units, the disk is 3 units in diameter. On the disk is the depiction of an old fire watchtower, in black, in the center, 2 units high, and 1.25 units wide at the base. Around the tower is a sparse green landscape, its upper edge slanting from about 9:30 o’clock to about 3:30 o’clock. Arched over the top of the disk in large gold letters is GUARDIAN OF THE GULCH. Centered below the disk, in gold numerals the same size, is 1881.
John M. Purcell, American City Flags, Raven 9-10, 2002-2003

Symbolism

The symbolism is explained by the city:
Helena is graced with one of the most significant historic structures in the west. This structure is a symbol of both devastation and pride. Before Helena was 10 years old, she experienced nine fires that ravaged the downtown area. Three of those fires were considered ‘great fires’, the most destructive occurring on 9 January 1874. The community that night was experiencing a typical Montana winter. Temperatures were around 15 below [zero, Fahrenheit] and the winds were raging with hurricane force. History tells us that the disaster was started by a … cook who started a fire in the chimney pipe of his wood-fired stove. In an attempt to put out the fire, he picked up a bucket of what he thought was water, instead it turned out to be cooking oil. A large explosion occurred that night, every single business in the downtown area burnt to the ground and 150 homes were lost.

That next year citizens came together and erected a fire tower, completed with … a shiny new bell. To this day the fire tower graces the downtown area. In 1982 the Helena City Commission proclaimed the fire tower and the words ‘Guardian of the Gulch’ the official symbol and motto for the City of Helena.

The city incorporated in 1881. The gulch in the motto is the “Last Chance Gulch”, where four prospectors discovered gold in 1864, leading to the founding of Helena.
John M. Purcell, American City Flags, Raven 9-10, 2002-2003

Selection

Likely designed as a result of the city commission’s 1982 proclamation.
Flag adopted: Unknown (apparently unofficial).
John M. Purcell, American City Flags, Raven 9-10, 2002-2003

Designer

Unknown.
John M. Purcell, American City Flags, Raven 9-10, 2002-2003

More about the Flag

This flag can be seen in official use at the City Commission photos: http://www.helenamt.gov/commission.html, where the shade of blue seems to be lighter than the state and national flags.

Local legislation at http://www.helenamt.gov/home.html doesn't include the words "city flag", and "flag" seems to appear only in connection with the national flag.

See some photos of the tower:
https://www.helenamt.com/city/helena/listing/fire-tower/
http://www.sandersbb.com/images/FIRE.gif

Ralf Hartemink reports a coat of arms that is Azure issuant from a mound Vert a (representation of the local wooden fire watch) tower Or and the mount charged with the figure "1881" Or. Torse: Azure and Or; mural crown proper; crest: the tower Sable and in background the map of Montana Argent outlined Gules; supporters: two deer; trophy: a pick and a spade Proper crossed at the handles; compartment of green grass; motto "Guardian of the Gulch" in black capitals with red initials on a scroll Or.
António Martins-Tuválkin, 7 March 2008