Broadwater Elementary School was first opened in 1893. It was originally built to provide more space for students since nearby Hawthorne Elementary was unable to house the increasing number of students in the area. Land for the school was purchased from the estate of Colonel Charles A. Broadwater, a local businessman who had recently passed away. He had spent the previous 30 years working to improve the city of Helena, and in his honor, the school continues to bear his name.
Arriving in 1866, Colonel Broadwater was a major figure in early Helena History. “Col. Charles A. Broadwater epitomized the self-made man…a member of Montana’s pioneer generation, and his career reflected the American success story—the ascent to riches.”[i] He was involved in many businesses, including cattle, wagon freighting, banking, and railroads. Col. Broadwater was perhaps best known in Helena for creating the luxury spa destination, The Hotel Broadwater and Natatorium. Although the original structures no longer stand, you can still enjoy a soak in the same natural hot springs in that location today. Students still enjoy swimming in the Broadwater pools!
In 1893, The Board of Education Trustees paid $3,300 for the purchase of the land, and construction was begun shortly after.[ii] The building cost a total of $10,980 to construct, which was $1,020 under budget and completed that same year. The newspaper proudly reported that, “there has not been a dollar of extras.”[iii] Containing six rooms, it was ‘built of pressed brick and stone, and is one of the handsomest and most substantial appearing structures on the west side’.[iv] In fact, the structure was so ‘substantial’ that it survived the 1935 earthquakes with little damage, unlike many of the other buildings in Helena.[v]
The original building was replaced in 1942, with additions added in the subsequent years to meet the needs of increasing population during the Baby Boom years. The original building was demolished in 1943, and materials sold to be used in other building projects.[vi] Rumor has it that people still own bricks from the original Broadwater Elementary School. Although construction projects have changed the look of the school building over time, the 900 block between Hollins and Peosta Avenues has only ever been used as a school site, and will continue to serve Helena students for many years to come.
[i] “Chapter One: Charles A. Broadwater: Entrepreneur and Helena Visionary.” Helena, Montana: the Queen City of the Rockies and the Broadwater Hotel, by Patricia C. Spencer, Arcadia Pub., 2002, p. 9.
[ii] “Broadwater School.” The Helena Independent, 30 June 1893, p. 5. Accessed through Chronicling America, Library of Congress
[iii] “The Broadwater School.” The Helena Independent, 28 Oct. 1893. Accessed through Chronicling America, Library of Congress
[iv] “The Broadwater School.” The Helena Independent, 28 Oct. 1893. Accessed through Chronicling America, Library of Congress
[v] Montana Historical Society. “Broadwater School Was Solidly Built.” The Independent Record, 27 Apr. 1986, p. 2C.
[vi] Montana Historical Society. “Broadwater School Was Solidly Built.” The Independent Record, 27 Apr. 1986, p. 2C.