When the Tiffany Window was reinstalled,
the kind lady for whom it was originally dedicated, moved back into this building.
For the cost of $20,000, this lovely stone building was built in 1901 as a Unitarian Church, to also be used as a multi-user facility, for “anything that tends to build up the better life.” The church offered its social rooms for community use; “various sorts of gathering for clubs, classes, social events and all the rest.”
– Reverend Leslie Willis Sprague, October 1901
The original building was built with its present sloping floor and proscenium stage area. When a church member, by the name of Clara Bicknell Hodgin died in her prime at the age of only 34, her bereaved friends and neighbors took up a collection to buy a beautiful Tiffany window which they donated to her beloved Unitarian church family, who of course installed the window in the building, a symbol of their love for her.
In 1933, a terrible earthquake hit Helena, and nearly destroyed the Helena public library. This church was donated in memory of another woman, Ellen Dean for the city to use as the interim library. The Tiffany window was taken down and carefully put into storage at the civic center, and the building was renovated. The house floor was leveled and a mezzanine was added, to make the use of the building as a library work.
In 1976, a enterprise known as Broadwater Productions moved into the building and established the Grandstreet Theater. When the Tiffany window was rediscovered soon afterwards, it was reinstalled in the building.
Since 1976, the Grandstreet Theatre has been busy restoring the theatre to its former beauty, using money received from Helena’s tax-increment financing funds, additional fund-raising efforts and the generous donations from their patrons and givers.
The first renovations done in 1976 required the careful removal of false floors and the mezzanine mentioned above. Carpenters then restored the tiered seating in the balcony and built a second exit stairway.
Over the years, the auditorium, box office, balcony, back stage area and lobby were restored. 200 brand new seats were installed. The worn-out rose carpeting has been replaced with lovely jade green carpet and new drapes cover the church-style windows.
The Grandstreet Theatre offers a lot to the city of Helena, which would please Reverend Leslie Willis Sprague if he were here today.
Their mission to the community: “Our mission is to produce a diverse spectrum of theatre of the highest quality, to provide hands-on learning experiences in all aspects of theatre production to all ages, and to celebrate the achievements of volunteers and staff. Grandstreet seeks to nurture the performing arts as an integral part of life in Helena and the surrounding area.”
When the Tiffany window which was bought in memory of Clara Bicknell Hodgin, was once again reinstalled in the building, the following began to happen:
The gentle, kind entity of Clara moved into the building as a friendly presence, felt by many visitors and participants, both children and adults.
Her light footsteps are heard throughout the theatre.
This entity likes to play with electrical appliances and lights, which sometimes seem to have a mind of their own.
Definitely yes. Although Clara died at a young age, she is hanging around and is enjoying observing the living as they perform in the theatrical arts.
325 North Park Avenue
Our Haunted Paranormal Stories are Written by Julie Carr