About Us



Current Montana Restoration Foundation Board of Directors

Vacant, President Chair

Vacant, Vice Chair

Cindy Dean, Secretary

Jamie Dushin, Treasurer​

Marta Ernst



If you are interested in becoming a member of the Montana Restoration Foundation Board, please send a letter of interest and resume to montanarestorationfoundation@gmail.com.

Board History

In 1959 Governor Hugo Aaronson vacated the 1888 Queen Anne Mansion at 304 N. Ewing and moved to the new Executive Mansion at 2 Carson Street. The Helena Chamber of Commerce undertook the historic preservation and restoration of the old mansion as a Chamber project. Mayor Dave Lewis and the City Commission were prevailed upon to ask the State of Montana, Board of Examiners to lease the Mansion to the City of Helena on a long-term lease so that is could be restored and maintained as a historic museum.


Mayor Dave Lewis of the City of Helena appointed a committee known as the Governors' Old Mansion Restoration Committee late in 1969 to manage the affairs of the Old Mansion. The committee consisted of the following people: Mr. Joe A Maierle, Mr. John Schroeder, Mr. George Schotte, Mr. Lester Loble II, Mrs. Sherman W. Smith, Mayor Dave Lewis (Ex-Officio member), Mrs. Tim Babcock, Mrs. Sam C. Ford, Mrs. Forrest Anderson, Mrs. Fred Gannon, Mrs. J. R. Kaiserman.


These influential Helena citizens and former First Ladies began a fund raising effort. The 1969 Legislative Assembly had appropriated $35,000 towards the repair of the building, which had been neglected for many years while it was used as a Governor's Mansion. Initial funds were used to restore the exterior, which had severe deterioration. The City of Helena filed an application with the Department of Housing and Urban Development for a Historic Preservation Grant. In the meantime the Committee was busy raising funds from donors around the State to restore the interior. The Committee and the Chamber also had a bill introduced into the 1971 Legislative Assembly for an additional $39,000 to match Federal funds to complete the restoration at a cost of $78,000.


The 1971 Legislature appropriated $5,000 which was matched by the Committee to pay for the exterior work, which was $3,000 more than the original appropriation. The grant of $39,000 from HUD came through in June of 1971. Mr. John DeHaas Jr. from Montana State University was consulted to establish a plan for interior restoration. This work continued for ten years, collecting furnishings, ordering custom wall coverings and custom carpets appropriate to the period.


By 1980 the City of Helena was unable to continue management of the Mansion financially. The State terminated the lease to the city and the Montana Historical Society (MHS) took responsibility for restoration, maintenance and management of the Mansion. The Mansion Committee continued with policy and management authority for the most part, consistent with the overall policies of the MHS.


The Board was mainly a fund raising entity and sponsored annual events to raise money. The main fund raiser became the Annual Carriage House Sale. There was a Good Old Summertime Ice Cream Social in the summer. In 1980 the annual Holiday Home Tour at Christmas began. It opened private homes to tours when they were dressed in their holiday best.


In 2005 the Good Old Summertime Social morphed into The Secret Garden Tour which is a summer version of the Holiday Home Tour. Even though the weather in this region only allows three short months of growing season, local gardeners manage to do extraordinary things with their yards, which tend to be unseen, thus Secret Gardens. This is their chance to share their beautiful yards and raise funds for the Mansion. This has become a very popular tradition in Helena, and is now the main fund raising effort of the Original Governor's Mansion Restoration Society Board, which is a volunteer group of Montana citizens dedicated to OGM restoration projects.


In 2010 the Montana Original Governor's Mansion Restoration Society filed to become nonprofit. In 2017 the Board of Directors voted to change the name to The Montana Restoration Foundation and expanded the focus of the fundraising efforts to include other public historic buildings and educational topics important to the preservation of Montana’s history. The new mission statement, voted on in March of 2017, is as follows: “The Montana Restoration Foundation exists to promote the restoration of, and education regarding, public historic buildings in Montana.”

© 2018 Montana Restoration Foundation

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