|Butte Hotel, left center with awnings, c. 1904. |
Windsor is 2-story to left; Hirbour Tower at far left.
Original California Saloon (gray) at right behind the people.
The Wilson Brothers, Frank and Hugh, were merchants in Centerville where they ran a general store at 942 North Main Street in the early 1890s. Apparently it was successful enough for them to erect the Butte Hotel on a vacant lot, the former site of the St. Nicholas Hotel. The St. Nicholas dated to before 1884, and I do not know if it burned down or it was demolished, but the location was a vacant lot by 1891.
Hugh Wilson was the first manager of The Butte. In 1918, brother Frank bought him out and managed it for years thereafter, succeeded by his widow, Mabel. The place became associated with the Democratic Party (Republicans met down the street at the Anaconda Employees Club, the old Thornton Hotel), and was known as “Liberty Hall” for the political addresses delivered from its balcony.
The Butte Hotel was one of the primary residences of Augustus Heinze. It contained both a public restaurant and a dining room for hotel patrons, as well as various store fronts on the first floor, and of course a big saloon and billiard parlor.
|Butte Hotel lobby, 1895.|
The hotel was vacant for some years until 1952 when remodeled stores opened on the first floor, and in September 1953 major remodeling had created 42 “ultra modern apartments” in the Butte Hotel building.
Unfortunately, the most expensive fire in Butte’s history to that date destroyed the building on August 9, 1954. Almost all of the apartments were occupied, and the fire left 125 residents homeless. Damage was estimated at more than $1,000,000 in 1954 dollars.
|Montana Standard: coverage of August 9, 1954 fire.|
The Butte Hotel had survived at least two previous fires, one on July 13, 1901 ($10,000 damage) and another during World War II in a bingo parlor on the first floor.
The sketch of the lobby is from an ad in The Great Dynamite Explosions at Butte, Montana, by John Francis Davies (1895). The postcard image (from Dick Gibson's collection) is from between 1901 (Hirbour Tower present) and 1905 (original one-story California Saloon present – it was demolished in 1905). The fire photo is from the August 10, 1954 Montana Standard (in the Butte Archives).