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.



Tuesday, March 20, 2012

What was there? Dakota between Broadway and Park

1901 image; scanned by BSB Public Library. Looking SW.
By Richard I. Gibson

Today the west side of this block is a parking lot to the south and a building occupied by Western Montana Mental Health, at 106 West Broadway, on the north. The space has a long history, of course, as do most blocks in Historic Uptown Butte.

Many older residents probably recall the 1972 Penney’s fire that created the parking lot here. The 4-story Penney’s building had been built there by 1916, when three different stores occupied the first floor, including wholesale liquors and a trunk repair shop. The rest of what is now the parking lot was filled in 1916 by four more retail establishments, including a photographer, a restaurant, and a dealer in prints, wallpaper, and picture frames. The foundation of the mental health building is actually that of the old Butte Public Library, partially destroyed in a fire March 27, 1960. The top floor and turret were removed or destroyed but much of the existing building today is the old library.

In 1900 Dakota Street was called Academy, and the library occupied the northern section of the block, with the 3-story Harvard Block right next door on Broadway. The Harvard Block was a boarding house with a printer’s shop in the basement. Today’s parking lot portion was largely a vacant lot in 1900, but the northwest corner of the Academy-Park intersection held three tiny (each approximately 12’x12’) brick-veneered stores and a shed. The northeast corner of what is now the parking lot, facing Academy at the alley, was occupied by a bicycle sales and repair shop.

Nine years earlier, 1891, the entire eastern three-quarters of the block along Academy, from Broadway to Park, held the Butte Public School and its surrounding grounds, visible in this previous post. The school was built before the fall of 1884. Prior to its construction, it’s likely that a few cabins occupied the block but there is no good documentation for this.


Image from Western Resources Magazine, 1901 (public domain). Scanned by Butte-Silver Bow Public Library.

Friday, March 16, 2012

A Pioneer Carpenter

William Clowes
William Edward Clowes was born in New Brunswick in 1852 of Dutch ancestry. He became an apprentice carpenter at age 16, worked in Boston and points west until finally arriving in Butte in 1884. In an exploding city—en route from fewer than 4,000 residents in 1880 to 23,000 in 1890—Clowes found plenty of work.

By about 1901 he was not only a carpenter but also a real estate marketer, owning 20 of the houses that he built.

His wife of eight years, Cora (also a Canadian), died in 1891 leaving Clowes with three children. They lived at 324 S. Montana about 1905, locating at 211 West Porphyry in 1907, before Clowes moved to Silver Bow, west of Butte, in 1908-1910.


Photo from Progressive Men of the State of Montana, ca. 1901.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Skating Rinks

Old Court House (left) with skating pavilion east (right) of it.
Roller skating was the rage in the U.S. in the 1880s, and as usual, Butte was at the leading edge.

In 1884 Butte had at least two “official” indoor skating rinks. The fancy one at the northeast corner of Granite and Alaska – directly across Alaska from today’s Silver Bow Club Office Building – was a huge, 2-story 170-foot-long barn-like pavilion with a cement floor, and was initially an ice-skating rink. It’s to the right of the old Court House in this image from the 1884 Bird’s-Eye View of Butte. It straddled a stream coming down from the vicinity of the Original Mine; the stream contained a “large amount of water in spring and winter” and went under the pavilion via stone arches. Dressing rooms and a storage shed stood outside the pavilion itself, right at the Alaska-Granite corner (you can see them in the snippet from the Bird’s-Eye View). At this time, Alaska Street north of Quartz (alongside today’s O’Rourke Building) was not a street, but was occupied by vegetable gardens with a cow corral to the east.

The second skating rink was on the north side of Park Street, where the Thomas Block (Garden of Beadin’, Main Stope Gallery, etc.) is today. This one-story structure was about 100’x100’ and included a basement.

In 1888 the Park Street rink was gone, replaced by the first Thomas Block of stores, including a butcher and sausage factory, dry goods shop, grocery, “gents furnishings” and clothing, and the Justice Court. The second floor was furnished rooms (or maybe a furniture warehouse).

The Granite Street pavilion (called Turner Hall) was being renovated in 1888, with plans to make it into an Opera House. The structure had been divided into two large spaces, with smaller shops (a saloon, a grocer, and a fruit store) occupying the Granite Street front. Alaska Street to the north was still unimproved, but it was becoming more like an urban street with several dwellings and a Chinese Laundry along it. The stream had been mostly filled in or covered and turned into a subsurface culvert.

In 1890 the Pavilion was still standing, but was divided into three large spaces: two for the Lyceum Theater, and the third for a gymnasium in the north end of the building. About half the building was still used as a skating rink in 1891; in 1900 the rear half was a livery stable. This building with its long history was torn down about 1915, as Uptown Butte’s last major building boom took off. The building there today dates to this era (I think) with a major re-build in 1947.

Butte was growing much too quickly to allocate large spaces in the central business district to skating rinks. Other rinks developed, including the one for ice skating at the corner of Montana and Front Streets. But the next time you pass the northeast corner of Granite and Alaska, remember the hundreds of kids and adults who enjoyed a skating party there over 125 years ago.

Monday, March 5, 2012

West Broadway 1884

from the 1884 Bird’s-Eye View via Library of Congress
By Richard I. Gibson

The south side of the first block of West Broadway includes some old buildings – but only one survives from 1884. The IOGT (Independent Order of Good Templars, an anti-alcohol fraternal organization that admitted women) Hall is the two-story building at right in the illustration here, and it’s the only remnant from that time still standing today. The third floor was added in 1891. Two doors down (off the right edge of the picture), the IOOF (Odd Fellows) hall had its foundation laid by September 1884, and it’s another long-term survivor in this block.

The IOGT hall included a stage in the basement and a dwelling on the first floor. It and the restaurant-saloon in mid-block and the prestigious bank at the corner of Main all had slate roofs, while all the others seen here had wooden shingles. Most of these buildings were “cloth lined,” meaning that their frame walls were insulated only by a lining of canvas. Hart & Lavelle’s livery stable had a basement with stone walls on two sides, and the bank had a stone basement.

The Donnell, Clark & Larabie bank occupied the first floor at the corner of Broadway and Main (where D.A. Davidson is today), with offices above and a barber and bathhouse in the basement where they had their own large boiler. The cornice was metal, probably tin. This building lasted until 1916, and its 1916 replacement was in turn replaced
in the 1960s by the building there today.

Robert Donnell was expanding his Deer Lodge bank in 1877, with a new branch in Butte, where the 25x100 lot at the corner of Broadway and Main cost $1,400 on April 18, 1877. Donnell’s clerks, W.A. Clark and S.E. Larabie, took charge of the Butte branch and became the owners when another Donnell venture failed, in New York in 1884. Clark’s fortune began in this bank when he took some mine property, including the Travona, in lieu of loan payments, and an uninterested Larabie took a band of horses in exchange for his half interest in the mines.


Photo by Robert Edwards
Recent (January 2012) construction work from the parking lot at Quartz and Alaska, to Broadway (in front of the IOGT Hall), Park, and Galena streets focuses on a pre-1884 underground water-sewer line similar to the picture here by Robert Edwards. Before mining and building altered the landscape, that line was a flowing stream that came down the hill from the Centerville area, about where Alaska Street is today. South of Granite to Galena, most of that stream had been converted to an underground culvert by Summer 1884, but it was still a ditch or open sewer below Galena Street. North of Granite was a slightly different story—fodder for a later post.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Before the Hennessey, there was the Centennial Hotel

August 5, 1879, Butte Miner
By Richard I. Gibson

Volume 1, No. 1 of the Butte Miner, August 5, 1879, includes front-page ads that suggest Butte was already becoming a settled metropolis rather than an ephemeral mining camp.

Eight physicians and surgeons advertised their services, as well as one dentist. Dr. J.W. Beal, a native of Ohio, had practiced medicine at Alder Gulch and German Gulch for 12 years before coming to Butte in 1876. In addition to his work in medicine Beal was an entrepreneur, building and running the Centennial Hotel (opened July 4, 1876) at the corner of Main and Granite where the Hennessey Building stands today, until the hotel burned down April 24, 1888. He served in the territorial legislature and was elected Butte mayor in 1881. He died at German Gulch, where his son owned at least two mines, on June 8, 1901 at age 73.

Centennial Hotel, photo ca. 1880,
via Montana Standard (copy in BSB Archives files)

The two-story Centennial Hotel in the photo here included a saloon run by Beal’s son-in-law George Newkirk, an office, the 30-by-40-foot dining room, kitchen, laundry, wood house, and a two-level outhouse, as well as a nearby ice house. George Newkirk’s Butte mineral collection was reported to be the best in the Territory and was (perhaps) sent for display at the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia.

A minimum of eight lawyers and notaries provided legal aid to the growing town. Three assayers offered their analyses, while a watchmaker and jeweler held forth at Dellinger’s store on Main Street.

Henry Valiton’s livery stable at the West Park Street Bridge (presumably the bridge over Missoula Gulch) rented barouches (fashionable carriages with collapsible hoods to protect the passengers from the elements), bench wagons, sulkies, covered carriages, and saddle horses, and claimed to have the finest hearse in Montana. The stable had a “GRANITE FLOOR” superior to any other in Butte. Like Dr. Beal, Valiton went on to become a Butte mayor, and partnered with Marchesseau in the 3-story Beaver Block that stood at the corner of Granite and Main (where the Wells Fargo Bank is today) until it burned in 1968.

The St. Nicholas Hotel advertised a dining room that could seat 100. It was on East Broadway, straight across from the site of the 1890 City Hall, and bragged that it was the largest hotel in Butte.

All this in a city whose population in the 1880 census was 3,363.