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.



Thursday, February 5, 2015

The first block of East Park Street

North side of Park Street, Main to Wyoming, circa 1893. See bottom for annotated version.

By Richard I. Gibson

Somewhat remarkably, most of the buildings in the photo above are still standing. You are looking at the north side of Park Street between Main and Wyoming. From left to right, the buildings are

1. Owsley Block, northeast corner of Park and Main, with the turret. Site of NorthWestern Energy construction today. 

2. Narrow building with a tall turret. Parking lot west of Trimbo’s today, lost in 1973 fire that destroyed Owsley Block (Medical Arts Building).

3. Owsley Block #2, with the prominent bay front. Trimbo’s today.

4 – 5 – 6. Of the three buildings east of Trimbos, two definitely still stand, and probably all three. The first one, with the high second story, is Owsley Block #1. Then there are two buildings of equal height. All three of these buildings are occupied by Rudolph’s furniture today. The façade on the third building has been modified a lot but I think the original building is still in there.

7. The little one-story building is gone, replaced in 1917 by the Chester Block (Whitehead’s) which still stands.

8 – 9.The massive block with the two large awnings is the Shiner Block (Exer-Dance), vacant but still standing in 2015, and the corner building, the Key West House (lodgings) and Bray’s Butte Cash Grocery, is occupied by Rediscoveries today.

This photo dates to 1892 to 1895. The Owsley Block was completed in 1891-92, and The Butte Cash Grocery was located on this corner from 1887 to 1896. The Key West House was not in business under that name in 1895, but of course the sign might still have graced the façade.

The trolley line started in 1890. You can see the tracks in the center of a dirt Park Street. I believe the sidewalks are made of wood, and note the fire hydrant in front of the Butte Cash Grocery and the policeman leaning on the telephone pole to the right.

Courtenay, Case, & Gravelle Company (“Gents Furnishings”), advertised on the east face along the top of the Owsley Block, was incorporated in 1891 and had its store in the big corner building at Park and Main. Joseph Gravelle had come to America from his native France in 1889. After the store closed in 1906 he moved to Waitsburg, Washington to open a store under his own name. Courtenay left the partnership in 1897, to be replaced by Ohioan Arthur Ervin; the store changed its name to accommodate that change in ownership. Joseph Case came to Butte in 1880 from his native San Francisco, to which he returned when the store closed. Ervin also left Butte in the early 1900s.

A.F. Bray
Absolom F. Bray was a more permanent fixture in Butte. He was born Oct. 21, 1852, at Langdon Cross, Cornwall, England, and came to America in 1876. He established his first grocery in Butte about 1885, but failing heath drove him to California for a time. He returned to open the Butte Cash Grocery in 1886. It was originally located at the site of the Murray Bank, the northwest corner of Copper and Main, but he moved to the site in the photo above, Park and Wyoming, the next year. In 1889, Bray was elected to the first Montana state legislature.

“He had a voice that could make a boatswain’s rumble sound like a whisper” – A.F. Bray in the legislature.

When the photo above was made, the store was a typical retail grocery, but in 1896 he moved to the corner of Park and Arizona and focused on the wholesale trade as well as retail. He was doing $1,000,000 a year in revenue by 1901.

“Every nook and corner are crammed with the finest assortment of staple and fancy groceries that the markets of the world can furnish.” —Butte Cash Grocery, in Western Resources, 1901


A.F. Bray died September 5, 1906 in Butte. His son, A.F. Bray, Jr., born in Butte, became a prominent member of the legal profession, serving as the chief judge of the California Court of Appeals. Bray Jr. died in 1987 at age 97.





Sources:
I do not know the source of the photo at top. It is too old to be in copyright, so it is public domain and free to use, but I would like to credit the source if someone knows.

Courtenay Case & Gravelle store information 

A.F. Bray Jr. 

Progressive Men of Montana; Western Resources, Denver, CO, June 1901 (Bray photo).

Quote about his voice from Walton History, By Shirley W. Cozad

Butte Cash Grocery advertisement from Anaconda Standard, May 29, 1896.

Courtenay Case ad from Anaconda Standard Almanac 1893, digitized by Butte Public Library

Annotated to show buildings including present-day occupants. Owsley and the one labeled #2 are gone today.

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