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"|
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)|
|Masonry detail (west section)|
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!