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.



Sunday, December 22, 2013

Christmas in Butte and Anaconda, 1889

Anaconda Standard, Dec. 25, 1889


By Richard I. Gibson


See also these posts with ads from Christmas 1911.

The Anaconda mine in Butte had been shut down a month earlier, boding ill for the economy, but by Christmas day in Anaconda, “the smoke [was] pouring out of the big stacks across the creek in volumes that gave ample assurance of a merry Christmas in the town.”

Christmas 1889 was the first anniversary of electrical light service in Anaconda. The first public power and light utility in Butte was five years earlier, in 1884, and by February 1889 “all the levels” of the Anaconda, St. Lawrence, and Mountain Con mines were lit underground by incandescent lights. Streets in Butte were first lit by electric lights in late November, 1885, so that “pedestrianism is rendered more comfortable.” 

In Butte for Christmas 1889, “All stores, public offices, and churches will be closed for the day, but the saloons, gambling houses, the Comique, and hurdy houses, will be running at full blast as usual.” The Theatre Comique was a dance hall and entertainment venue that stood on Main Street just south of Park, about where the southern edge of the Metals Bank building is today. Goldberg’s (see ad at top) offered 25% off everything in their store at 12 Main Street. It looks like the discounts were of little avail, and David Goldberg was out of the jewelry business by 1893 and was working as a railroad ticket agent. His business was probably purchased and became Leys Jewelry which had a store (at 12 N. Main Street and other addresses, as he moved and the address scheme changed) in the block between Park and Broadway for many years. A Leys ghost sign survives.

Anaconda, Christmas 1889. Click to enlarge.
The Standard reported that “W.A. Clark and Lee Mantle have had stockings expressly made for the occasion, warranted large enough to hold an election certificate to the United States senate.” Montana had become a state seven weeks earlier, on November 8, 1889, and politicians’ goals were becoming evident. The contests would become more and more bizarre over the coming decade.

Even in 1889, the Standard said, “Butte is one of the most cosmopolitan cities on earth, and each of the various nationalities represented will eat the dinner most to its liking. The native Americans recognize the turkey as the national bird. The Germans and Swedes of Butte consider the goose much preferable to the turkey. The latter they consider too dry. The citizens of Butte from the British Isles find a roast pig exceedingly palatable, while those from the southern states also choose the pig in the absence of the unequalled ’possum. The French think chicken makes the best dinner. Duck finds favor with a good many of every nationality and is especially liked by the Jews. The Italians don’t go much on eating, while the Chinese think rat giblet santi with cream sauce the best dish on earth.” That last line certainly was a reflection of prejudices of the time.

Quotes: Butte Daily Miner, Nov. 27, 1885; Feb. 15, 1889. Main article and Goldberg ad from Anaconda Standard, Dec. 25, 1889, via Library of Congress Chronicling America digital newspapers.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

The Great Building Boom of 1906



The Napton, with its four medallions for 1906.
By Richard I. Gibson

Note: this post is modified from an article written by Gibson and published in the Montana Standard in 2008.

1906 was a watershed year in Butte—the end of the War of the Copper Kings. When Augustus Heinze sold most of his holdings to the Amalgamated Copper Company (later to become Anaconda), more than 100 lawsuits were settled. This cleared title to millions of dollars in land ownership and freed up money for investors. And the building boom was on. Yes, there were still deals to be done between Clark and his heirs and the Anaconda Company, but for practical purposes, the war was over.

With a county population exploding from fewer than 50,000 in 1900 to at least 85,000 in 1917, Butte needed more and bigger of everything, from apartments and churches to office buildings. Butte produced some of the grandest buildings in its history in a brief period from 1906 to 1908.

Granite Street must have been in a near-perpetual state of disarray in 1906, as huge structures were erected from the Leonard Hotel on the west to the Thornton Hotel Addition on the east, near Wyoming Street. Between them, the Silver Bow Club, Carpenters Union Hall, and Telephone Company (later the Water Company) joined the list of “under construction” places in 1906-07. The Napton apartment building, 25 E. Granite, memorializes 1906 in four huge medallions across its upper façade.

1906 Symons Store (Phoenix Block) as it looked in 1939.
A new “labor temple” at 128 West Broadway and the Buol Building at 132 West Broadway appeared in 1906-1908. The distinctive green and white Moorish appearance of the Butte Floral Co. at 27 W. Broadway is another 1906 addition. First Baptist Church, Broadway at Montana, was erected in 1907-08 to replace a smaller first-generation church on the same site.

One of Butte’s most significant and prestigious structures, the Metals Bank skyscraper at Park and Main, was completed in 1906, while just down the street the Phoenix Building was rising from the ashes of the “million dollar fire” that destroyed the previous Symons Department Store on September 25, 1905.


Marcus Daly’s statue was being created by Augustus St. Gaudens in 1906, and was unveiled on North Main Street in 1907. In 1908, two prominent homes were built on the west side, together with many smaller houses. 

South of the main business district, Madame Marie Paumie had the St. Francis Apartments built at 110 S. Dakota in 1906, adjacent to her cleaning establishment (now the Post Office at Dakota and Galena). St. Mark’s Lutheran Church went up at Montana and Silver in 1906-1908 at a cost of $16,000. And down on Front Street, Bennett Block #2 (the Deluxe, slated for demolition today) was erected. 

The legacy of a century-old building boom is with us today – as treasures in architecture all over Uptown Butte.

The video below by Edoardo Ramponi includes some mentions of buildings involved in the 1906 building boom.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Fair Drug & Assayers Supplies


By Richard I. Gibson

Scott Robert Fair was born November 26, 1857, in St. John, New Brunswick, to parents who were natives of Ireland. Fairville, today a neighborhood in St. John, was named for his father, the first resident there. Scott Robert began to study pharmacy in Boston when in his late teens. After working in Boston and New York, he came to Montana about 1889.


By 1893 he had established (with assayer Olof Bergstron) a drug store and assay supply outlet at 137 East Park, on the northwest corner with Arizona Street. He at least dabbled in mining, establishing the Mayflower Mine south of Whitehall—which by about 1896 he had sold to W.A. Clark for a reported $150,000. The Mayflower went on to produce more than 225,000 ounces of gold and 875,000 ounces of silver for Clark and later the Anaconda Company, a total value of around $3 million by 1961, most of it in 1896-1901. New owners in the 2000s have been testing and drilling to evaluate re-opening the Mayflower.  

Invoice, dated Dec. 30, 1900,
to The Butte General Electric Co.,
purchased 45¢ worth of tubing
and paid the bill 1/17/1901
Fair was closely connected with W.A. Clark. In addition to the sale of the mine, his partner Bergstron was the assayer for the Colorado Smelting & Mining Company, of which Clark was vice-president. In February 1900, Fair was summoned to Washington. D.C., to testify in the Senate hearings related to Clark’s alleged bribery of the Montana legislature to “buy” that Senate seat. Fair was asked directly whether he told Montana legislator Thomas Normoyle that $10,000 was his if Normoyle would vote for Clark. Fair denied that, and other suggestions, strenuously—but Normoyle insisted that he had in fact made such an offer, in Fair’s establishment at 115 East Park Street. The upshot of the hearing was the Senate’s refusal to seat Clark; he resigned from the position before he could be ousted, then famously got his friend the Lieutenant Governor of Montana, in the absence of the Governor, to appoint him to that now-vacant seat. That ploy failed as well, but Clark was finally elected and seated in the U.S. Senate in 1901.

1901 advertisement
When he began the drug store at 137 E. Park, Fair lived at 408 West Quartz (a house that I can see out my window as I type this) with his brother George F., who dealt in real estate. By 1896, he and his wife Caroline were living at 606 West Park, and in 1897-98, they relocated to a new home at 221 N. Excelsior which would stay in the family at least until 1963. About the same time, they occupied the new building at 115 East Park that would house the drug and assay company for two decades.

Among the products available at Fair’s Drug was a special “pneumonia mixture,” touted as a cure and sold to treat miners’ consumption (silicosis).

The Fairs participated in Butte’s high society. Caroline Fair attended affairs with Mrs. A.H. Heilbronner, Mrs. Reno Sales (he was chief geologist for the Anaconda Company) and many others.

1907 advertisement
S. Robert Fair died May 20, 1914. His widow Caroline and son George R. continued to run the Fair Drug and Assay Supply Co., but in 1918 they moved the operation a block to the east, to the corner storefront in the new Arizona Hotel on the southeast corner of Park and Arizona. The drug store address was 200 E. Park. In 1918 George was living at 628 W. Quartz. Caroline, Robert’s widow, died in 1944. Her daughters Katherine, Caroline (McCarthy), and Nellie (McDaniel) lived in Butte until the 1960s. Katherine died in September 1963, when she was living at 317½ N. Alabama Street.

The Fairs continued to run the drug store in the Arizona Hotel until about 1936-37, when Ben Gunnary took over. The original drug store building, 115 E. Park, served as the Union Grill for most of the 1930s and was known as Frank’s Café in 1954. In the late 1950s and early 1960s both 115 E. Park (Jim’s Trading Post) and the Arizona Hotel corner store were used furniture shops.

Arizona Hotel c. 1919
The Arizona Hotel was demolished about 1965, and the west half of the 100 block of East Park was removed in 1967-68. About 1971 the Burger Crown restaurant was built on the site of the Arizona Hotel. The Burger Crown burned May 4, 1975, and today that space is the parking lot for Sparky’s Garage Restaurant.

About 1969, the present building went up on the site of 115 E. Park and that half of the block. It held Currie’s Tire & Appliance Center for years, and many still refer to it as the tire store. Where it stands today, in 1900 there were nine storefronts on Park and five more on Wyoming, plus various outbuildings. Among the businesses were a tent manufacturing factory, two restaurants, a Chinese tailor, two saloons, one bakery, an auto dealer, a hat shop, a sausage factory, a liquor store, and a cleaner.


Sources: The Story of Butte, Butte Bystander, April 15, 1897 (source of main photo), in Gibson’s collection; The History of Montana, by Helen Fitzgerald Sanders, Volume 3, 1913; Congressional Record, Montana Senatorial Election Hearings, Feb. 5, 1900; Anaconda Standard, May 21-22, 1914; August 12, 1912; June 30, 1907; March 24, 1901; Sept. 21, 1963; Advertisement from Souvenir History of the Butte Fire Dept., 1901, Butte Public Library scan; Invoice, dated Dec. 30, 1900, to The Butte General Electric Co., purchased 45¢ worth of tubing and paid the bill 1/17/1901, via Rocky Mountain Museum of Military History (Ft Missoula); City Directories; Sanborn maps.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

The Mikado Dining Hall


by Richard I. Gibson

Annie and Katie Nesbitt, sisters, opened the Mikado Dining Hall on October 1, 1894, in the Barnard Block at 15 West Granite Street. They had been in the restaurant business for at least a few years—in 1892 Annie managed and Katie was a waitress at a café at 45 West Granite. Prior to that, they were reportedly “engaged in conducting fashionable boarding places.”

The eastern store front of the Barnard Block, on the site where the Montana Standard is located today, was part of a large 2-story building that was nearly destroyed in the fire of September 29, 1889. Although heavily damaged in the fire that began across the street, and although reports of the day indicated it burned to the ground, it appears from the Sanborn maps that the basic structure survived and a third story was added during the restoration. The 3-story Barnard Block stood here until the middle 1950s when another fire consumed it, and the present 2-story Montana Standard building was erected.

By 1910 the sisters had moved the Mikado a few doors west, to 41 West Granite, and their original restaurant in the Barnard Block was occupied by Peter Barrenstein’s saloon. Various stores occupied the space until the fire in the 1950s.

New construction about 1917 eliminated the building at 41 W. Granite, and by 1918 the Mikado no longer existed and the Nesbitt sisters appear to be gone from Butte.

Resources: Butte Bystander, special edition, April 15, 1897 (photo) in Gibson’s collection; city directories; Sanborn maps.

Monday, November 25, 2013

What Was There? 69-71 West Broadway



By Richard I. Gibson

Although later Sanborn maps say the building that stood here was built in 1898, the 1900 map shows three vacant 1- and 2-story dwellings “damaged by fire,” and I believe that the 5-story Miner Building was erected in late 1900 and 1901. News reports have the foundation being dug in August 1900. At about the same time, the Butte Miner also constructed a smaller building further west, at 121-125 West Broadway, to serve as corporate offices, and the two new buildings together replaced the small one at 27 W. Broadway, which the Miner had certainly outgrown by 1901. The Miner used 121-123-125 W. Broadway as its masthead address starting December 1, 1901, when they ran a front-page announcement of the “new and enlarged Miner.”

Deseret News, Aug. 28, 1900
The Miner Building was built like a skyscraper, with a steel frame supporting concrete floors and the roof. In addition to editorial offices, this was the printing headquarters for not only the Butte Miner, but other publications that used the Miner’s equipment. One example is the Montana Catholic, published from here in the early 1900s. The building also housed offices for accountants and attorneys.

In 1928, three years after W.A. Clark died, the squabbling among his heirs was over, and his son Will (W.A. Clark, Jr.) had lost. All of Clark’s assets, including the Butte Miner and its two buildings, went to the Anaconda Company, and the Anaconda Standard newspaper took over the Miner; the combined paper became the Montana Standard which had offices in this building into the early 1960s.

Toward the end in 1928, all of Clark’s surviving companies had their offices here, including the Elm Orlu Mining Co., Timber Butte Milling Co., Moulton Mining, the Clark Law Library, Clark-Montana Realty Co., and the Butte Electric Railway Co. (the trolley service), in addition to the Butte Miner. All were headed by W.A. Clark, Jr., in 1928 until the August takeover by Anaconda, and most were on the upper floors of this building.

Immediately to the west (left in photo at top) was the Empress Theater* which burned in 1931 and was demolished in 1935 to create a pass-through gateway for Greyhound buses. The Miner Building was demolished in 1965 to expand the bus pull-through, and the present parking structure was built in the early 1990s after the bus station moved.

*second of that name; originally the Lulu, then called the Orion; renamed the Empress when the Empress across the street, in the Maguire Opera House building, burned in 1912; the opera house was replaced by the Leggat Hotel.

Resources: Montana Catholic, January 21, 1905 (photo); Deseret News, Aug. 28, 1900 (article); city directories; Sanborn maps. The story of newspapers in Montana history is told in Dennis Swibold's book, Copper Chorus.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Greeley School



Silver Bow Park neighborhood
Thornton Street at Park Place
Built: c. 1898

Greeley School was built along with many others in Butte as a response to the exploding population in the late 1890s. First through Eighth Grades were taught at Greeley in its early years. Following are some of the staff at Greeley in 1905 and 1910, revealing a diversity of origins, and residences scattered all over town.

1905
  • Principal Mary Moran, Montana native, 15 years experience (13 in Butte)
  • Marguerite McDonald (New York), 6 years experience (4 in Butte), graduated State Normal School, Winona Minn.
  • Bertha Konen (Illinois), 3 years (7 months Butte)
  • Annie Moses (Michigan), 1 year (7 months Butte)
  • Kathleen McDonald (Michigan), 5 (3)
  • Bessie Vaughn (Wisconsin), 2, (7 mo.)
  • Ida Hillas (Ontario), 13 (3)
  • Harriet Ballon (Zanesville, Ohio), 17 (3)

In 1910, only one teacher from 1905 was still at Greeley:

Principal Kate Stafford. Teachers: Anna Sennett, Elsa Fasel, Mary Harrington, Ada Myersick, Fannie Spooner, Alice Maguire, Kathleen McDonald. Janitor: John Boyd.

John Boyd the Janitor lived at 525 W. Silver. Principal Kate Stafford roomed in the Pennsylvania Block on Park Street. Ada Myersick roomed at 1212 E. Second St. Kathleen McDonald – 606 W. Park. Fannie Spooner – 207 W. Park.  Mary Harrington – 185 E. Center. Elsa Fasel roomed at The Dorothy (corner of Granite and Wyoming).

Alice Maguire – 807 W. Galena (with Mary (widow of John), Nellie, and Grace. Perhaps Mary was the mother of three sisters, all of whom were teachers). Anna Sennett – 411 W. Quartz, where she lived with Helen Sennett, teacher at Emerson, along with other Sennetts: James – clerk Hennessy’s; John – miner; Mary – stenographer; Nora (widow Michael) – grocer 306 N. Jackson. 411 W. Quartz was a busy place for such a small home!

Third Graders at the Greeley School in 1905 were to be able to answer these questions:
How were the canyons and gulches formed? What would the level valley south of town indicate? What are sand, clay, loam, alluvium? Note.—Some of the most common properties of the minerals (quartz, feldspar and mica) could be taught here with profit.
On the subject of language,
The chief result to be obtained from the study of language is power of expression rather than a knowledge of grammar. The power of expression, however, is useless unless one has something to express. In this branch of work it follows, therefore, that the activities are two-fold, (1) the getting of knowledge, and (2) the proper facility in giving expression thereto.

Third graders would read Robinson Crusoe.

Greeley had served as a community center for several years before it closed in 2004. After several years of discussion among the Butte School District, County Commissioners, and the Public Housing Authority, with nothing coming of it, in 2013 the school was sold to Doug Ingraham who plans to try to save the historic building and return it to viable use.

Resources: Annual Report of the Board of Education and City Superintendent of Schools, Vol. 18, 1905; digitized by Butte Public Library (source of photo).

Thursday, October 31, 2013

“My friends call me Zig”

By Richard I. Gibson

C.O. Ziegenfuss is certainly not a common name in Butte history, but he was a renowned newspaperman of the last quarter of the 19th Century. He seemed to follow trouble, and he made the news several times while reporting it.

One of his early assignments, for the Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, Times, was to cover the June 21, 1877, hangings of activist Irish coal miners—the Molly Maguires. He made his way west within a few years of that event, and was in Butte by 1886, working as editor of the Butte Miner when it was located at 16 W. Broadway, an address that evolved to 27 W. Broadway, in the building that was remodeled in 1906 to house the Butte Floral Company.

During Zig’s short (8-month) tenure as the Miner’s editor, he was nearly murdered there in the newspaper office, on June 23, 1886.

At 5 o'clock this evening a desperate attempt was made to assassinate C. O. Ziegenfuss, editor of the Miner. The would-be murderer is a carpenter named Miller, whose daughter eloped a few days ago from Anaconda with a young fellow named Harrington. Miller pursued the couple to this city and found them occupying an apartment together. He compelled Harrington to marry the girl and then went around town boasting of what he had done. Next morning the Miner contained a brief account of the affair, and in the afternoon Miller visited the newspaper and demanded a retraction. Editor Ziegenfuss told him he would investigate the matter and publish a retraction if one was deserved. Miller went away apparently mollified, but returned later in an intoxicated condition and made a nuisance of himself, generally. This evening he returned again and requested a private interview with the editor, who conducted him to the editorial room, up stairs. When the head of the stairs was reached Miller suddenly grasped Ziegenfuss with one hand and, drawing a pistol with the other, fired at his head. The bullet whistled past its target, and Ziegenfuss and the shootist rolled down the stairs together. In the descent the pistol was dropped and Miller after being severely pummeled by an attache of the business office, was given into custody. A charge of an attempt to kill will be entered against him to-morrow. Mr. Ziegenfuss was not injured in the least by his rough experience, and numerous friends are congratulating him upon his narrow escape. Public feeling is strong against Miller.

That same month, Zig was appointed to lead the New York World’s expedition to Alaska to check out rumors of gold in the territory acquired by the U.S. 20 years earlier, but as far as I can tell that expedition never happened. By 1890, Ziegenfuss was in California, where he soon became known as one of the preeminent newsmen of the West Coast. He served in various editorial and reporting positions at the San Francisco Chronicle, the Calaveras Citizen, San Francisco Post, Stockton Mail, Fresno Republican, Fresno Expositor, San Francisco Examiner, and the Republican of Phoenix.

He made the news in Fresno in 1897 and Calaveras in 1900, both times as the victim of attacks by citizens irate at the way they were treated in his newspapers—but he brushed both off as he had the skirmish in Butte.

By 1902 Zig was editor and proprietor of the Manila American, in the Philippines. He returned to San Francisco in late summer 1902 because he contracted malaria and dysentery in the Philippines; the Manila newspaper was for sale. He was found dead in his hotel room November 6, 1902, asphyxiated because a gas burner was turned full on. Suicide was suspected initially, but the death was ruled accidental. His remains were cremated at the San Francisco Odd Fellows’ crematory and sent to his mother in Pennsylvania; the San Francisco Press Club conducted a memorial in his honor. It was recalled that “he had an inexhaustible fund of good humor, and was at all times considered the best of companions.” In 1895, when he managed the California News Agency on Bush Street in San Francisco, he was quoted as saying "I admit that I have rather a hard name to spell or pronounce, and that is why I encourage my friends in their proclivity to call me 'Zig.' "

Resources: San Francisco Chronicle's special Butte reporter, published in Los Angeles Herald, June 24, 1886 (main quote of Butte story); Engineering & Mining Journal, July 3, 1886; San Francisco Call, Sept. 19, 1895 (source of sketch); San Francisco Call, Nov. 7, Nov. 9, Nov. 12, 1902; Butte Bystander, The Story of Butte, 1897, p. 67; Sanborn maps; city directories.

Monday, October 21, 2013

The Hancocks of Caledonia Street

Left to right: 951, 947, 943 Caledonia


By Richard I. Gibson

The 900 block of Caledonia was home to four related families for much of the early 20th Century. Their diverse occupations connect us to much of Butte’s history.

The three similar homes at 943, 947, and 951 Caledonia were all built about 1898, probably by the same builder. They were the first homes on the block (and pretty much the only ones in the area), and were the only three houses here in 1900, but by 1916 twenty homes stood on the Caledonia-Excel-Woolman-Henry block, and there were only four vacant lots remaining as this area’s population exploded. A new fire station was just down the block.

In 1900, John Nance, a miner, lived in the new house at 943 Caledonia. Family history says that Native Americans were still living on Big Butte at that time, and would often knock on the door to beg for a bicky (a biscuit). The family maintained a cow, a horse, and chickens. When John worked the night shift, he would take his wife, Mary, to her parents’ home on East Park (probably 441 E. Park), picking her up on his return in the morning.

Left: duplex, 939-935 Caledonia. Right: 931 Caledonia.

Mary was the daughter of John and Ellen (nee Carne) Hancock. By 1900, the Caledonia neighborhood was growing fast, and by the early 1900s homes were built east of the Nance home at 943. The west half of the big duplex at 939-935 became the home of Mary’s parents. John, a miner, and Ellen Hancock had three daughters – Mary (Nance), Clara (Rowe), and Ethel (Downing) – who after marriage lived at 943, 931, and 935 (the other half of the duplex) Caledonia, respectively. The also had another daughter, Adeline, and a son, Joseph. Joseph lived at 939 with his parents in 1910 when he was a clerk at Hennessy’s.

Robert Downing, a collector for the Butte Miner Publishing Co. in 1900, had lived at 513 N. Montana before marrying Ethel Hancock and moving to 935 Caledonia Street. By 1910, he was the Advertising Manager for the Butte Miner newspaper, and in 1928 he worked at the City Corral. Their daughter Rosalind, living with them in 1928, was a clerk at the Paxson and Rockefeller Co., a drug store at 24 West Park.

John Nance advanced from miner to ropeman helper in the Silver Bow Mine (1910) to pumpman (1928). In 1928, John and Mary Nance’s children were living with them at 943. Harold was a chauffeur with the Canary Cab Co.; John was a miner for the Northern Development Co.; and Percy worked as a clerk at the Western Hardware Co.

Fred and Clara Rowe bought the house at 931 Caledonia in 1905, just five years after it was built in 1900, and they added the second story in 1909. Fred worked as a storekeeper at the Butte & Boston Smelter and in 1910 was a precipitator at the precipitation plant. By 1928 he was Assistant Foreman at the precipitation plant for the Anaconda Company, and his and Clara’s children were living at 931 with them. Margaret was a student; Theo was a laborer for the ACM company; and Wilbur was a teller at the Metals Bank. The Rowes lived at 931 into the 1950s, and their descendents live in Butte today.

947 Caledonia, at center in the top photo, was also connected to the family. It was owned by Richard J. Oates, a partner with Samuel M. Roberts, son of Elisha and Jane (Hancock) Roberts and  nephew of John Hancock and his sister, Elizabeth Anne Hancock Paull. Oates & Roberts, Inc. was established in 1893. They were the printers and publishers of books and The Tribune Review newspaper, located in 1900 at 200 N. Main, and later at 114 E. Broadway and 120 E. Broadway in Butte. The Tribune Review, a weekly published from 1898 to 1920, was in 1900 the official organ of the Republican Party in Silver Bow County, and was leased to the Republican Party during the 1904 election campaign Sept. 2 to Nov. 5. The newspaper also employed several members of the Dunstan family, including in 1900 Thomas Dunstan as an early partner in the enterprise (he lived at at 951 Caledonia, completing the triplet of homes in the top photo). Editor Samuel Roberts was prominent in Butte from the late 1890s into the middle 1920s. He was Clerk of the District court from 1900 to 1904 and was also Treasurer of the Miners Union for some time.


Resources: Information from Rhea Warnecke (great great granddaughter of Elizabeth Anne Hancock Paull, sister of John Hancock), including a letter from Viola Nance Briggs (daughter of John and Mary Nance) to the Butte Historical Society, August 22, 1984; Sanborn maps; city directories; historical plaque for 931 Caledonia. Oates & Roberts ruler photo courtesy of Rhea Warnecke; modern photos by Richard I. Gibson.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Some Butte Bakeries

Download a PDF of a 12-page booklet about Butte bakeries here (3 megs).

Today, in honor of Butte's newest bakery (the Grand Bakery, 120 West Broadway), a simple post showing some advertisements from a few of the many early bakeries in Butte. These are from the 1890s-1900s. The Eagle Bakery was at 15 East Granite. Scans from City Directories by Richard I. Gibson; the 1884 sketch of the Loeber Brewery and Eagle Bakery (both owned by the same man) is from Michael A. Leeson, History of Montana: 1739-1885.




Sunday, August 25, 2013

The Southern Hotel



By Richard I. Gibson

The north side of the first block of East Broadway held prominent hotels for many years (see this post on the Butte Hotel). In mid-block, at 41-43 East Broadway, the longtime lodging house was the Southern Hotel.

Cover of 1895 city directory. "Kum-c-me"
In 1884, the US Restaurant and Lodging House stood at this location, an elongate two-story wood building. By 1888, it had evolved into the Southern Hotel, with a hodgepodge of connected (and some disconnected) log buildings serving as rooms, attached to the core which was the old US Restaurant. By 1890, a new, narrow three-story building was erected west of the original two-story section. I believe, but I’m not certain, that this three-story structure forms the core of the existing CPA office on East Broadway.

This is a great example of a building whose story would be better told if we had some Sanborn maps from the mid-1890s. But we only have 1890, 1891, and 1900. It seems that the present building probably appeared about 1892, when a third story was likely added to the original two-story to the east, and it was connected to the three-story section on the west. The present façade probably appeared then, or perhaps a few years later. The advertisement above, from the 1890s, shows the hotel as if it were on a corner—which it was not, but the lot to the west was empty for a time after the three-story section was built, and the angled corner may reflect that original geometry. By 1900, the corner was square and the modern façade was almost certainly in place by then. The two sections are not identical, making the present façade asymmetrical, and there is a large light well separating the two sections behind the front.

Storefront beneath sidewalk (east section)
The first proprietor, Dan Tewey, was a miner who was in Butte by 1885 when he worked for the Montana Copper Company, the business incorporated in 1879 by the Lewisohn Brothers of New York. Tewey ran the hotel until around 1905. In 1910 William McCarthy and Harry Harms managed it; in 1928, the place was “furnished rooms” with Mrs. Margaret Loveland as proprietor. At various times, the Southern Hotel also used the upper floors of the Forbis Block to the east (today’s Uptown Café).




Masonry detail (west section)
In August 2013, the sidewalk was removed, in anticipation of filling in the vaulted space below. This revealed a spectacular under-the-sidewalk storefront, with cast-iron columns, windows, and doors. The differences between the eastern and western sections are noticeable: to the west, the vault is several feet narrower than the one to the east. Details of masonry show attention to detail, suggesting that this may have been one of the sub-sidewalk spaces that were retail storefronts with public access from the sidewalk, but there is no obvious evidence of descending stairways, nor do the old maps have any suggestion of such stairs (but the maps often omit such detail).

What is apparent is that these vaults, like most in Butte, were absolutely limited to the front of each building—there are solid granite block walls at either end of the vaults, as well as another at the join between the two buildings that constituted the Southern Hotel. There was no interconnection along the block, and like most of the vaults, they were private to the adjacent buildings. There was no promenade, no connected underground city with people coming and going as if they were on the surface.
No interconnections along the block.

The sidewalk repair removed some of the last surviving purple glass bricks in place in Uptown Butte. The owner has asked to keep them; there is at this writing some debate as to whether or not the vaults will be filled in (the plan at present) or preserved (my preference, of course, as well as that of Mr. Prigge, co-owner of the building). Stay tuned. But whatever happens, this work has revealed an outstanding example of a sub-sidewalk space. Check it out while you can.

UPDATE: August 26: The owner, Leo Prigge, indicates that as of now, barring some insurmountable engineering problem, these vaults will be preserved. Great news, and thanks to the Prigges and the URA which funds 90% of vaulted sidewalk restoration for following through and saving a very cool aspect of Butte history. Thanks also to Marissa Newman for advocacy!

August 2013
Resources: City Directories, Sanborn Maps (1884, 1888, 1890, 1891, 1900, 1916). Historic ads from City Directories; modern photos by Richard Gibson. News coverage.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Sacred Heart


Original Church, school, and rectory at 444-448 East Park Street.
The first floor continued as the school after the 1912 fire.

by Richard I. Gibson

This post was stimulated by a Facebook discussion. The focus here is only on the buildings associated with Sacred Heart, and is based on a careful look at the addresses in the City Directories and the Sanborn maps. Click on images to enlarge

The Sacred Heart parish was organized in 1901. In 1901-03, they met at 460-464 East Park, probably the early address of the building that would become the church at 448 East Park when it was completed in 1903.

original altar (destroyed in fire)
The first mass, Christmas Day 1903, opened the completed church at 448 East Park Street, on the south side of the street almost directly across from the Wright’s Drug Store that is the only surviving building in this section of the block. The building included the school, and the rectory was next door (444 E. Park). In 1907-08, the Sacred Heart Convent was built at 407 East Mercury.

The church and school stood immediately east of the Lizzie Mine yard on Park, a mine that had ceased operations by 1916. The area is part of today's revitalization on the East Side.

After the 1912 fire
A fire on November 17, 1912, severely damaged the church, but the first floor survived and continued to be used as the parochial school until 1969; it was finally torn down about 1974 as the Anaconda Company bought up properties in anticipation of expanding the Berkeley Pit to this part of town (which obviously did not happen).

A new church was built a block west and across the street, at 355 East Park (address also given as 349-363), one lot west of the corner of Covert and Park Streets, a vacant lot today. It opened in 1913 and the last mass was celebrated in that church July 1, 1970. It was demolished in 1974.



New church, at 355 East Park
Resources: City Directories, 1901-1975; Sanborn maps, 1900, 1916, 1951; Butte's Croatian-Slovenian Americans, by Ann Simonich. The postcard photo of the first church is public domain, circa 1904-1910; the photo of the second church is courtesy of the Butte-Silver Bow Public Archives, from the Jim & Helen Edwards Collection, used by permission. Fire photos from Anaconda Standard, Nov. 18-19, 1912. Many thanks to Irene Scheidecker at the Archives for assistance.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Elizabeth Lochrie

By Richard I. Gibson

Like many early Butte residents, Elizabeth Lochrie started in Deer Lodge. Elizabeth Tangye Davey was born there July 1, 1890. Her paternal grandfather had come to Montana in 1866 seeking gold; his son, her father, moved to Deer Lodge in 1887. Her mother May (nee Rogers) had Cornish ancestry.

In Deer Lodge, Elizabeth’s father trained horses, reportedly selling some to Marcus Daly. He was killed by a ruffian when Elizabeth was 12, and her mother was supported in part by philanthropy from some of Butte’s finest, including businessman Dan Hennessey. She also taught school in Butte, commuting from Deer Lodge.

While Elizabeth had shown interest in art from an early age, her first formal training was in about 1904, with Deer Lodge native Vonna Owings, who had studied in San Francisco and went on to become a founder of California’s Laguna Beach Art Festival. Elizabeth graduated from Brooklyn’s Pratt Art Institute in 1911 and returned to Deer Lodge where she married bank manager Arthur Lochrie.

Lochrie home at West Granite and Emmett Streets
Elizabeth’s professional painting career began as a newspaper cartoonist in 1915, but in 1923 she was commissioned to paint murals in the state tuberculosis sanitarium at Galen. During the Depression, she designed murals for post offices in Dillon, MT; Burley, ID; and St. Anthony, ID. Her work was also displayed at the 1939 New York World’s Fair.

By 1928, as Arthur’s career expanded, the Lochries moved to Helena and Spokane, and eventually (1931) to Butte where Arthur was president of the Miners Bank. Their Butte home at 1102 West Granite Street still stands. It formed their household, Elizabeth’s studio, and an exhibition gallery for her increasingly well-respected work.

Elizabeth Lochrie is most noted for her depictions of Native Americans and their settings, and she is a fixture in most books on western art. One of the last exhibitions in her lifetime was in the late 1970s, at the Charles Clark Art Chateau in Butte, where some of her works are on permanent display. She continued to live in Butte until a few years before her death—she moved to Ojai, California to be near her daughter, and died there in 1981.

Primary biography: A HALF-CENTURY OF PAINTINGS BY ELIZABETH LOCHRIE, By Betty Lochrie Hoag McGlynn, with gallery of paintings.


Monday, May 20, 2013

The Bidwell Brothers come to Butte


By Richard I. Gibson

Butte likes to say that every bad guy (and gal) that ever existed came to Butte and did something here. Billy the Kid, Bonnie and Clyde, Al Capone, Doc Holliday (he really was here), Attila the Hun. But in 1899, two of the most notorious international criminals of the 1870s did come to Butte. And they died.

In January and February, 1873, the Bank of England was bilked out of at least £500,000, and possibly as much as five million pounds. Brothers George and Austin Bidwell, together with two other Americans, Edwin Jones and forger George McDonnell, posed as wealthy investors and successfully passed check after forged check, until a simple error—lack of a date on the check—resulted in the scam’s unraveling.

The men fled, but were all captured with the help of Pinkerton detectives: Austin in Havana, Cuba; George in Scotland; McDonnell in New York; and Noyes in London. All were extradited, and security at the ensuing trial in London was extreme; the judge wore a gun, almost unprecedented at the time, fearing the possibility of a rescue attempt. The jury took but 15 minutes to convict after eight days of testimony from 90 witnesses in August 1873. A life sentence was handed to each member of the gang.

Fast forward 15 years. Pleading health problems, Austin and George were released in 1892 and 1887, respectively, and returned to America. They wrote books and made livings by touring the country giving lectures on the evils of crime. Thus, as promoters and book-sellers, the Bidwell brothers came to Butte in the late winter of 1899.

From Wall Street to Newgate” was the title of the semi-autobiographical novel, a reference to London’s Newgate Prison (although George was in the infamous Dartmoor, in Devonshire). The Anaconda Standard reported that Austin intended to make his home in Montana, but within three weeks of their arrival, on March 8, 1899, Austin was suffering from pneumonia and died in his hotel room in the Mantle Block (upstairs at today’s Piccadilly Transportation Museum, but some reports indicate that the brothers were staying at the Butte Hotel). He was 52.

George, age 69, died March 26, reportedly in the same bed as his brother, of “a broken heart,” dispirited by his brother’s death, “friendless, alone and as is supposed, well nigh penniless,” according to the Anaconda Standard.

In a fine coincidence, the Bidwells’ book had recounted a fictional character associated with the Boss Tweed gang in New York. That character went to Butte where he died in “poverty and want.”

As a further fascinating footnote, George and Austin’s older brother, Benson (1835-1911) claimed to have invented the electrical trolley. His two 1907 books, including his remarkably titled autobiography Benson Bidwell: Inventor of the Trolley Car, Electric Fan and Cold Motor: History of Early Struggles and Later Successes: With Personal Reminiscences, Lectures, Essays and Letter, and a story approaching science fiction, The Flying Cows of Biloxi, both have minor cult followings. Whether Benson actually legally patented the electric trolley or not seems to be in dispute, albeit unlikely. Promotional scams seem to have run in the Bidwell family.

Sources: Image of the four criminals at top (1873) from The Penny Illustrated Paper of London via Victorian Calendar. Additional sources: Anaconda Standard newspapers for March 8-27, 1899; Benson Bidwell  ; The Bidwell Brothers  ; and CrimeCrack.com.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

The first house in Butte


By Richard I. Gibson

It’s fairly common knowledge that the first home built in Butte was located on what is now East Quartz Street. For me, at least, that was all I knew.

But the special edition of The Butte Bystander newspaper for April 15, 1897, recounts stories of “old timers” and Butte history that is lost, including the sketch above of that first house.

Prospectors the Porter brothers, Dennis Leary and George W. Newkirk built the house and outbuildings in 1866. Their living quarters was the taller building at left, beyond the corral. Behind the house (to the right) stood their blacksmith shop; next to the right was a horse stable. They kept milk cows in the shed at right front. The view here looks west, so Quartz Street would be along the left side of the image.

The men established the Parrot claims with Joseph Ramsdell and built a small smelter (likely Butte’s first) on the lower reaches of Town Gulch (Dublin Gulch) not far from this house. They could not make the fire hot enough to get molten metal to flow, so the smelter failed. They tried again on Parrot Gulch, right below the mine, employing a windmill fan to create a draft in a crude blast furnace, using an 8-horsepower threshing machine as the driving source for the fan. That one failed as well. The Parrot and Ramsdell Parrot Mines would go on to become important excavations, both more than 1,000 feet deep, and other smelters would succeed.

The partners sold the buildings above in 1869, to become the core of the Girton House, an early hotel. This makes it easy to determine the precise location for this first house in Butte: East Quartz, between Main and Wyoming, on the north side of the street, just east of the alley that runs north to Copper Street. A parking lot today.

In 1884, the Girton House (#17 in Bird's-Eye view at left, and including the two-story building above the word "Quartz") was just west of one of the early Miner’s Union Halls, which stood on the northwest corner of Quartz and Wyoming.

The building survived in 1891, as the Cotter House, successor to the Girton, but by 1897 the space was covered by waste rock from the Gold Hill mine, whose shaft stood just to the north, below the intersection of Pennsylvania and Copper Streets. There has not been a building on this spot since before 1897.

Sources: Butte Bystander, April 15, 1897, The Story of Butte; Sanborn maps.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

"Welcome All To Hearth And Hall"



By Richard I. Gibson

(Click any image to enlarge)

A hundred years ago this spring and summer, the caretaker’s house at the Basin Creek Reservoir was constructed. Andrew F. Munroe was the engineer with the Butte Water Company in charge of the operation. His daily field notebook reveals the plans, sketches, and details of this custom project, as well as weather events and the occupants of the creek.

The work began in April, 1913, with the foundation laid out on April 29. By May 8, foundation forms were to have been started. The schedule called for frame up on May 23, and “shingles all on roof” May 24. The huge chimney would take two weeks to build, from May 31 to June 14. But with flooring in on June 21 and trim installed June 23, the work would be done in about two months.


Munroe’s drawings are true to the ultimate appearance of the house. Compare the sketch above to this recent photo by the Montana Standard. The house has been in the news lately because of the potential for demolition; once a caretaker no longer occupied it, it became a target for vandals. The city–county offered it for potential moving to another site, on a developer’s packet, and while one applicant proposed to restore it on site, and live in it to prevent further vandalism (which has been intense even in the past month), the proposals in 2012 were rejected and the city-county still owns the house and has not determined its fate.

Basin Creek Reservoir was developed to supply water to Butte’s growing demand in the early 20th Century. By the 1890s, Butte lacked enough water for its industrial needs and its large population, and as early as 1899 water was pumped over the continental divide from the Big Hole River, a process that continues today. The Basin Creek water source was for most of its history so pure that no filtration was required (one of only a handful of water sources in the nation to have that designation), but in recent years runoff, in part a result of forest loss through beetle kill, has contaminated the reservoir. Butte-Silver Bow is wrestling with potential needs to build a filtration plant there.

The park below the Basin Creek Dam, where the caretaker’s house is located, was for many years a recreational spot and destination for Butte’s residents, by most accounts second only to Columbia Gardens as a playground for an enjoyable outing. Map

Engineer Munroe, who drew the sketches shown here, roomed in 1913 at 133 West Broadway (the Morris Block) above what is now Wilhelm’s Floral Shop. He evidently found time to fish, although based on the note with the fish drawing, it might have been caught by George Corbett. All his drawings recall the enjoyment and professionalism of a house builder of 100 years ago.

Thanks to Mitzi Rossillon and Irene Scheidecker for discovering the notebook and providing access to it. Photos of notebook sketches by Richard Gibson; notebook in Butte-Silver Bow Public Archives collection.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

A Christmas tragedy


Officer Tom O'Neill (left) and grocery store manager Frank Walsh (right).

By Richard I. Gibson

Thomas O’Neill was born in Butte November 14, 1898, and attended Parochial schools, graduating from Butte Central. He dropped out of Mt. St. Charles College (Carroll) in Helena to enlist in the marines in 1918, and following the armistice worked as a machinist for 16 years; for fun he played football for the Dublin Gulch and Centerville teams. In the summer of 1934 he joined the Butte police force.

Tom’s father, John P., was well known to Butte as “The Rimmer.” He was superintendent of the Anaconda, Neversweat, and St. Lawrence mines in the 1910s and 1920s, and drowned tragically at Boulder in 1924. His widow, Tom’s mother, was expecting Tom at her house for dinner about 4:30 Christmas Day, 1935, but he never arrived.

Jean Miller
Two more Christmas dinners were about to be served earlier that day, in apartments at the Merriam Block, 538 S. Main Street (a parking lot today, across from the Scandia Bar). The boardinghouse manager, Betty Clifford, was entertaining her daughter and son-in-law, Mr. & Mrs. Frank Walsh, and a friend of the Walsh’s, Bob Clark. Frank was assistant manager of the New Market and Safeway store on Harrison Avenue.  Next door, Florence Benevue was preparing dinner for her sister Jean Miller when William Henry Knight appeared at the door demanding to see Jean. Florence sent him away—knowing him to be an ex-con who had beaten Jean repeatedly in the past, though he was also a sometime resident in the house. He returned with a gun, while Florence was seeking help at the Clifford apartment. Frank Walsh ran across the street to the Scandia, where former policeman Harry Kinney and Walsh summoned the police.

Tom O’Neill and James Mooney responded to the police call. When they arrived at the Merriam Block, they found Mrs. Benevue shot and Knight gone to his room at the rear of the building. O’Neill, Mooney, Walsh, and Kinney charged his room, to be met with gunshots. O’Neill was killed instantly; Walsh died from his wounds later that night. Mooney was badly hurt but survived, and the shots aimed at Kinney missed him.

Knight fled. Using stolen vehicles and on foot he made his way up the Madison River where he killed Floyd Woods, a ranch caretaker, then worked his way through Ennis and eventually back to Butte on December 27 after an attempt to reach a hideout in the hills above Anaconda failed because of heavy snowdrifts. He went to a house at 11 S. Oklahoma (parking lot of the WET building on East Park today), where lived Knight’s acquaintance, James Gilligan, who worked for Knight six years earlier, at the Montana Cafe. Gilligan was gone to work for the WPA on the Thompson Park project when Knight arrived. He held Hazel Gilligan and her children, age 5 and 2, hostage all day until James returned home. Then, somewhat inexplicably, he allowed the family to take the children next door, where they promptly called police.

A tear-gas barrage cornered Knight in the house, and assistant police chief Jack Duggan shot him down in the house when he assailed the police with a hail of bullets.

Knight had also killed deputy sheriff Tom Meahan near Seattle six weeks earlier. He had bragged to Jean Miller about that murder, and it was speculated that one reason for the Christmas Day encounter was Knight’s fear that Miller might implicate him in that death; Knight was also believed to be addicted to narcotics.

Tom O’Neill was living at 22 N. Main Street when these events occurred, in an apartment upstairs in the 3-story building south of the BS Café-Rookwood Speakeasy, with the Ley’s Jeweler Ghost Sign. His mother’s home at 417 N. Wyoming (corner of Copper) is also still there; she probably moved to that location after her husband John “The Rimmer” died—before that, they lived in the last house up the Anaconda Road, a stone’s throw from the Anaconda Mine itself. Frank Walsh, age 24, and his wife lived at 2401 Harvard Avenue, another house that still stands. Officer Mooney’s home, at 919 S. Utah, a half block above St. Joseph’s Catholic Church, is still there as well. Even the duplex at 633 S. Main, where Harry Kinney lived, is still standing. But the sites of the most deadly action, 538 S. Main and 11 S. Oklahoma, are gone.

Officer O’Neill’s portrait is part of the collection of plaques honoring fallen officers, in Dan Hollis’s collection, which can be seen in the City Jail on an Old Butte Historical Adventures walking tour.

Sources: City Directories, Sanborn maps, Montana Standard newspapers Dec. 26-28, 1935.