Charles A. Broadwater's Engraved 1880 Gorham Flask
- Persimmon Motif -


The owner writes: This is Charles' flask. It was verified to be at his deathbed in the hotel. It was given to Broadwater by his good friend and longtime business associate Cornelius John McNamara in 1880, upon the successful completion of their U. S. Army supply contract at Fort Maginnis, Fergus County, Montana.

The flask was to have been buried with Broadwater, but at the last moment his widow, Julia, gave the flask to McNamara as a keepsake. McNamara's descendants recall that in later years, he would hold the flask and speak lovingly about his old friend.

Sterling silver souvenir spoon depicting the natatorium
Made by Joseph Mayer and Brothers, Seattle, Washington

Souvenir plate depicting the natatorium
Made in Germany

Token from the Broadwater Saloon. The location of this enterprise is unknown to me at this time, but perhaps it was on Broadwater Avenue, just east of the Natatorium. There were several derelict wooden false-front buildings standing there well into the 1960s, and digs in the immediate area have produced whisky and champagne bottles.

View of area immediately north of the natatorium - before 1894.

Seen are the Broadwater carriage-house, several modest commercial structures with false fronts, and a large Victorian home on the opposite bank of Ten Mile Creek. Note that neither Williams Street (the road to Fort Harrison) or the 1894 iron pony-truss bridge over Ten Mile yet exists. The bridge is scheduled to be replaced in 2007, but may find another home.

The tract of land that the home is on was called Seymer Park or the Seymer Addition (also referenced as Seymour Park). It was planned by developer John Seymer as an enclave of wealthy homes. Unfortunately, the economic Panic of 1893 curtailed those plans, and only a few such homes were built. The one pictured above is still standing.


Program from the commemoration celebration of the completion of The Montana Central Railway to Helena. Held Monday Nov. 21, 1887 at the Ming Opera House in Helena. Many dignitaries, including James J. Hill, were in attendance. Musical entertainment was provided by the Maj. R. H. Hendershot, known as "The Drummer Boy of the Rappahannock". Hendershot wasn't exactly what he claimed to be.

Broadwater Hotel robbed by noted outlaw Thomas Blanck. On August 18, 1894, aided by an accomplice, the psychopathic killer and robber Thomas Blanck held up the bartender at the Broadwater Hotel. Taking $150 from the cash drawer, Blanck scared away several patrons who had entered the barroom while the robbery was in progress.

He was followed and a fight ensued. Blanck lost most of his clothing in the fight, but managed to escape. He then robbed an old man of his clothing while on the road toward Marysville, Montana. Once in Marysville, Blanck robbed a bartender of about $150. He would kill four more men before being hunted down and shot to death near Kent, Washington in 1895.

Mark Twain visits the Broadwater - 1895. From left: Mrs. Henry Ward Beecher, U. S. Senator Wilbur Fiske Sanders and Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain) - Union Depot, Helena Montana, Aug. 5, 1895.

Mark Twain's world lecture tour of 1895-96 was a necessity because of his accumulated debts from failed investments. Twain sailed around the world on a lecture tour that took him across the U.S. to Canada, the Sandwich Islands, New Zealand, Australia, India and South Africa before completing the tour in England. This whirlwind tour not only got him out of debt but it also resulted in his last travel book, Following the Equator.

Twain and his small entourage arrived in Helena by rail on Aug. 3 1895, after lecturing in Butte and Anaconda. They stayed at the Hotel Helena, which was on Grand St., just around the corner from the Ming Opera House, where Twain spoke that evening. He was fêted at the Montana Club after his lecture.

Twain rested in Helena the following day. This from promoter Major J. B. Pond's diary of the visit:

"Mark lay around on the floor of his room all day reading and writing in his notebook and smoking. In the gloaming Dr. Cole, with his trotters, drove Mark and Mrs. Clemens out to Broadwater, four miles. The heat gave way to a delicious balmy breeze that reinvigorated everybody. How delightful are these summer evenings in the Rocky Mountains!"

What, if anything, Clemens and his party did at the Broadwater is unknown.


President McKinley's planned visit to the Broadwater cancelled. In May of 1901, an extensive clean-up and renovation of the Broadwater Hotel began in anticipation of a visit from President William McKinley. The main event was to have been a dinner for the President given by Helena mining magnate Thomas Cruse. The cleanup had beeen in progress for several days when word was received that the trip was cancelled due to the illness of McKinley's wife. Thus, the planned upgrades were never carried out.

Broadwater Hotel Company stock, 1920. Charles B. Power organized this company in 1920 in an attempt to save the decaying resort. The company built a row of tourist cabins on the grounds west of the hotel in hopes of attracting automobile travelers. This was unsuccessful, and the BHC went bankrupt.

Power assumed full ownership and closed the hotel. He sealed off the dining room from the rest of the building, and for 17 years operated a restaurant in that space.

Lost 1931 Radio Drama Set in the Hotel Broadwater

Studio D of NBC, Chicago -- Configured for "The Empire Builders" Broadcasts

From 1929-31, the Great Northern Railroad sponsored the twice-weekly 30-minute radio program "The Empire Builders", a dramatic anthology focusing on the tales of passengers on the Empire Builder, Great Northern's crack train on the Chicago-to-Seattle run. Produced at the NBC studios in Chicago, the cast featured regulars Lucille Husting, Don Ameche and Harvey Hays.

Although these programs were produced and broadcast live, some air-check recordings were made. In the 1980s, nine such recordings were discovered in the corporate archives of the Great Northern Railroad. Unfortunately, the June 8, 1931 episode featuring the Broadwater Hotel - "Room 29" - is not among them, and is thought to be lost. A brief synopsis of the plot survives:

"In Helena, the Monte Carlo of the gold rush days, Benny Plot, an amateur detective, and his bride Margie clear the name of an uncle who was involved in a tragedy in 'Room 29' in the 'nineties. They succeed only after a harrowing experience. Principal roles will be played by Harvey Hays, the Old Timer, Don Ameche as Benny Plot and Lucille Husting as Margie".

Presented here for those who would like to hear one of these broadcasts, is the Feb. 2, 1931 episode of "The Empire Builders", which is a retelling of the first broadcast in the series, presented in 1929. It is a dramatization of the life of James J. Hill, founder of the Great Northern, and business partner of Charles A. Broadwater. MP3 format, running time approximately 30 minutes. The sound quality is poor in places, but that it has survived at all is a wonder. Click here to download.

WWII Liberty Ship named for Charles Broadwater, but only for a short time


The Charles A. Broadwater was built by the Oregon Shipbuilding Co., Portland, Oregon in 1943. It was a 7,252 gross ton cargo ship, length 441.8ft x beam 57ft, one funnel, three masts, single screw, speed 10 knots. It was launched as the Charles A. Broadwater, but completed for the British Ministry of War Transport as the Samthar. It was managed by the Royal Mail Lines until 1947, when she was purchased by Royal Mail and renamed Barranca. In 1957 she was sold to Soc. Anon. di Nav. Corrado, Genoa, Italy, and renamed Cesco Corrado. In July 1967, she was scrapped at Spezia, Italy.

ithograph of the Broadwater - 1890