Montana Historical Society (copy)

The Montana Historical Society is housed in the 1950 Veterans and Pioneers Memorial Building across North Roberts Street from the state Capitol. Content Exchange

Helena's mayor and two city commissioners hope to see the new Montana Heritage Center built where Capital Hill Mall once stood.

In a June 20 letter recently provided to the Independent Record, Mayor Wilmot Collins and Commissioners Ed Noonan and Andres Haladay told Gov. Steve Bullock they believe the property between Prospect and 11th avenues is the ideal location for the new state history museum. 

"The site has been part of the discussion for 14-years," the letter says. "There were various past concerns now mitigated with the demolition of the mall. The parcel is a blank slate, centrally located, close to the Capitol Building and has plenty of room for future expansions, parking and outdoor exhibits."

The Lewis and Clark County Commission has also expressed interest in the former mall site in a letter to Bullock. 

“While we encourage a thorough investigation into all potential locations and recognize all have their own merits, we currently support locating the Montana Heritage Center at the former Capital Hill Mall site,” the letter says.

Montana History Center, a nonprofit organization founded by former first lady Betty Babcock and spearheaded by her daughter Lorna Kuney, is also advocating for the mall site. Members have argued that this location is more prominent and would provide more parking. 

Montana Historical Society Director Bruce Whittenburg and trustees Ed Jasmin, Chuck Johnson, Mike Shields and Crystal Wong Shors would prefer to see the museum built on existing state land adjacent to the MHS building. They have argued that the location on the Capitol grounds would provide better synergy, and purchasing the mall site for the museum would needlessly remove the high-value property from city, county and state tax rolls. 

The Montana Department of Administration is responsible for researching and evaluating possible locations for the new museum. 

This article originally ran on Content Exchange