Gold-dusted dreams on South Rodney Street

South Rodney Street is one of Helena’s first developed neighborhoods where early influential citizens built fine homes in the first decade after the gold rush.

One of these historic homes, long boarded up and recently demolished, once sheltered the pioneer Johsua C. Ricker family and generations of Ricker descendants. Next door to the south, a companion structure, built a decade later, survives.

Recent occupants discovered that the overlooked history of these two properties intertwines with a unique legacy, unconditionally proving that the past and present sometimes intersect in strange and eerie ways.

On the cusp of the pandemic in February 2020, newscaster Phoenix O’Connor came to Helena from Texas with her 8-year-old daughter Bettie to take an anchor position at KTVH. A year later as Helena housing became nearly nonexistent, the O’Connors lost their lease and were nearly homeless. Phoenix finally found an apartment, two days short of eviction. It was less than ideal, but she had no choice.

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The 1870s Ricker home, left, has been recently demolished. The 1880s duplex, now four apartments, is on

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