Oct 18, 2011 7:39 PM by Marnee Banks (Helena)

Helena 1935 earthquake remembered

Tuesday marks the 76th anniversary of the earthquake that devastated the Helena community.

On October 18th, 1935, an earthquake of 5.9 magnitude struck the Queen City.

The quake damaged everything from the Lewis & Clark County Courthouse to people's homes.

The earthquake killed four people and caused more than $4 million dollars worth of damage.

Ellen Baumler of the MT Historical Society noted, "Houses did collapse, and people did lose belongings, and not many people had earthquake insurance, and...it was during the Depression, so...it was very difficult to replace the damages and many, many houses are stuccoed, because they used stucco to cover the cracks that they couldn't totally repair."

Baumler says there was a series of four foreshocks prior to the earthquake, and two sharp aftershocks.

The USGS website offers more information, including this overview:

The most severely damaged structure in the area was the Helena High School, constructed a few months earlier, in August 1935. Many large buildings were damaged heavily, including the City Hall, Kessler Brewery, and St. Joseph's Orphanage, but damage was slight to structures on solid bedrock (e.g., the State Capitol, Federal Building, and St. Helena Cathedral). In general, wood buildings covered with wood siding and structures having a framework of reinforced concrete or steel sustained little damage. Tombstones in all the cemeteries in the area were twisted or overturned.

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