Lost Butte, Montana, a book by Richard I. Gibson, is in stores and museum gift shops around Butte. Or order from the publisher. It's also in E-book formats at all the usual places. And read an interview with Gibson, here, and on KXLF here. The Facebook page has many historic photos of Butte, and the Butte-Anaconda NHLD project showcases many historic buildings. Location-oriented posts can be found on HistoryPin. On Mondays beginning in January 2016, look for Gibson's "Mining City History" column in the Montana Standard.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

What Was There? Excelsior at Caledonia

By Richard I. Gibson

The little triangular tract bounded by Excel, Caledonia, and the walking trail (former BA&P Railroad bed) has an interesting history. In 1891, the area around Excelsior was platted, but few homes had been built. Andrew Jackson Davis’s twin-sister homes at Granite and Excelsior were a year old, anchoring burgeoning upscale development along Granite and Broadway, but west of Excel and north of Granite there were only nine homes in the area north to Copper and west to Henry, and three of those were little shacks.

By 1900, Silver Bow County (mostly what we think of as Butte today) had more than doubled its 1890 population, from 23,000 to 48,000. The west side was growing, and in the same area, Granite to Copper and Excel to Henry, there were 37 houses, including five large two-story structures. West of Henry was more sporadic, but homes were popping up there, as well as to the north along Caledonia.

The growing west side was served by its own fire station beginning in 1901. It stood in the angle between Caledonia and Excel that was cut by the BA&P railroad. The photo here, from 1901, shows the fire station in its last stages of construction – it still bears the sign reading “this work is being done by Howard L. Hines, Contractor.” The view looks north from Caledonia, with the railroad crossing on Excel at right rear. Map

By 1916 the station had one hose wagon, an 1100-foot 2½-inch hose (made of first class cotton), two 400-foot second class cotton hoses, and was staffed by 6 men on two shifts, supported by two horses.

In 1951, the building together with the railroad tower house behind it was still standing, but was in use as an auto repair shop. In 1957 it was gone.

Image taken from p. 43 of Souvenir history of the Butte Fire Department (1901) by Peter Sanger, Chief Engineer, scanned by Butte Public Library.

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