Artist C. M. Russell illustrated the program for the formal ball, held April 12, 1913, inaugurating the largest hotel between the Twin Cities and the Coast. Built almost entirely with donations as a public enterprise, Helena felt real pride of ownership, and the Placer Hotel quickly became the center of civic activity. Its name derives from the placer gold washed from the gravel during the excavation of its foundation. As the foundation was being dug, an oldtimer prospector was called in to demonstrate the art of panning. Soon he had a crowd fascinated with the lesson. Legend has it that in digging the basement, workers found enough gold to pay for the building and then some. Architect George H. Carsley designed the grand hotel in consultation with Cass Gilbert, architect of New York’s famed Woolworth Building. The Placer’s wrought iron balconies, overhanging eaves, and wide cornice are reminiscent of the nearby Montana Club, designed by Gilbert in 1905. The seven-story hotel was constructed of reinforced concrete and brick from the Western Clay Manufacturing Company which is now the Archie Bray Foundation. Each of its 172 guest rooms, arranged around a U-shape, opened onto the outside. Custom-made china, cutlery, and bed linens—supplied by Helena’s New York Store—all bore the hotel’s prospector insignia. The hotel featured a carriage entrance, a lobby fireplace built to burn seven-foot logs, and a state-of-the-art kitchen with an automatic dishwasher and central refrigeration system. In June of 1960, a campaigning John F. Kennedy visited Helena during the Montana State Democratic Convention and stayed at the Placer as a guest. The former hotel is now divided into condominiums.