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.

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 fa├žade.

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.


  1. Superb! What a great, short 5 minute journey into the past.

  2. What a great story about one family in such a fantastic, history rich city!

    1. One out of many - between the Archives folks, and the other trolley and walking tour guides, we do things like this a few dozen times a year, more or less. This one just happened to be a little longer than most and to get recorded. :)