Helena is the capital of Montana, a state of the United States of America. As of the 2000 census, its population is 25,780, but with the surrounding area the population reaches 40,000. It is the county seat of Lewis and Clark County.
The town was established on October 30, 1864, following the discovery of gold along Last Chance Creek by the "Four Georgians". Helena's main street is named Last Chance Gulch and follows the winding path of the original creek through the historic downtown district.
The town was originally named "Crabtown", after John Crab, one of the "Four Georgians". As other miners arrived and the town expanded it was decided to change the name. After many suggestions, John Sommerville suggested the name of his home town, Saint Helena, Minnesota, but the pronunciation (Hel-E-na) did not suit the miners, who preferred HELL-en-a (emphasis on hell). Dropping "Saint" from the name as unnecessary, the new name Helena was adopted (defeating the name "Tomah" by only two votes).
The townsite was first surveyed in 1865 by Captain John Wood. However, most streets follow the chaotic paths of the miners, going around claims and following the winding streambed. As a result, few city blocks match the ideal of 30 x 60, rather they have an irregular variety of shapes and sizes. Many major streets deadend abruptly.
By 1888, about 50 millionaires lived in Helena, more millionares per capita than any city in the world. About $3.6 billion (in today's dollars) of gold was taken from Last Chance Gulch, over a 20-year period. The Last Chance Placer is one of the most famous placers in the western United States. Most of the production occurred before 1868. Much of the placer is now under the streets and buildings of Helena (but even as late as the 1970s, when repairs were being made to a Bank, a vein of placer gold was found under the Bank's foundation).
The official symbol of Helena is a drawing of "The Guardian of the Gulch", a wooden fire watch tower built in 1886, that still stands on "Tower Hill" overlooking the historic downtown district. This fire tower replaced a series of observation buildings, the original being a flimsy lookout stand built in 1870 on the same site, built in response to a series of devastating fires: April 1869, November 1869, October 1871, August 1872 and January 1874 that swept through the early mining camp.
As of the census of 2000, there are 25,780 people, 11,541 households, and 6,474 families residing in the city. The population density is 710.5/km² (1,840.7/mi²). There are 12,133 housing units at an average density of 334.4/km² (866.3/mi²). The ethnic makeup of the city is 94.78% White, 0.23% African American, 2.10% Native American, 0.78% Asian, 0.07% Pacific Islander, 0.38% from other races, and 1.66% from two or more races. 1.67% of the population are Hispanic or Latino of any race.
There are 11,541 households out of which 27.1% have children under the age of 18 living with them, 42.5% are married couples living together, 10.4% have a female householder with no husband present, and 43.9% are non-families. 37.5% of all households are made up of individuals and 11.3% have someone living alone who is 65 years of age or older. The average household size is 2.14 and the average family size is 2.83.
In the city the population is spread out with 22.4% under the age of 18, 11.1% from 18 to 24, 26.6% from 25 to 44, 26.0% from 45 to 64, and 13.9% who are 65 years of age or older. The median age is 39 years. For every 100 females there are 91.0 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there are 87.6 males.
The median income for a household in the city is $34,416, and the median income for a family is $50,018. Males have a median income of $34,357 versus $25,821 for females. The per capita income for the city is $20,020. 14.5% of the population and 9.3% of families are below the poverty line. Out of the total people living in poverty, 16.4% are under the age of 18 and 8.3% are 65 or older.