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. Many of these blog posts have been converted to podcast episodes, available at KBMF.

Monday, February 25, 2013

The Board of Trade Saloon

By Richard I. Gibson

Up the street, and ‘cross the corner
Stood the spacious Board of Trade;
It was noted for its whiskey.
They served but the highest grade.
—The Saloons of Old-Time Butte, by Bill Burke, 1964
(one of 106 verses)

A saloon occupied the southeast corner of Park and Main, its angled door facing the intersection, from before 1884 until 1916, when the multitude of buildings around that corner were torn down to make way for the Rialto Theater.

The heart of town, Park and Main was always a focal point for Butte’s citizens—and therefore a focal point for saloons. In 1900, at least ten bars could be found on the south side of Park between Main and Wyoming, and five more on the east side of Main from Park to Galena. The Board of Trade, on the exact corner, anchored them all.

Early Butte saloons typically were known simply by their proprietors’ names. William Fritz was the first known operator of the saloon on this corner, beginning before 1884 and continuing through 1892, but it was called the Board of Trade at least by 1891. Subsequent owners included Michael Donovan, Doherty & Satterly, Parker & Mathews, and Zorn & Gregovich until 1900 when long-time managers at the California Saloon and Brewery, Louis Lienemann and Charles Schmidt, branched out to the Board of Trade. Schmidt’s name would be associated with the place until its demolition in 1916. The central location meant that unlike many saloons that catered to particular ethnicities, the Board of Trade's clientele was “of necessity of all sorts and conditions of people.”

16-18 East Park St., summer 1939. Photo by Arthur Rothstein.
When the Rialto Theater opened in 1917, a new two-story building also went up immediately to the east, with a 4-story building east of that, to house the second Board of Trade Saloon and Restaurant on the ground floor at 16-18 East Park. Managed through the late 1910s by Greek immigrant George Papp, it survived prohibition in typical Butte fashion, as a “soft drink parlor and cigar store.”

A long and colorful history at this second location was “highlighted” by the June 8, 1959 killing of Andy Arrigoni as he sat at a gaming table, by his common-law wife, Lee Arrigoni. She was better known as Ruby Garrett, the last madam of the last brothel to operate in Butte, the Dumas, in use until 1982. There was no doubt that she shot Andy, but she pleaded abuse by him: “I didn’t plan on it, but if he beat me up again I wasn’t going to take it any more.” Ruby Garrett died in Butte March 17, 2012.

The Board of Trade on East Park continued in business until 1965, when the Rialto was demolished. Today, the US Bank occupies much of the footprint of the old Rialto, and the drive-thru to the east is where the Board of Trade and other buildings stood.The sign in the front, behind the newsboy in the 1939 photo, says “Thru our Doors Pass the Nicest People in the World—Our Customers… Board of Trade, 16 & 18 E. Park.” The sign was retrieved from a dumpster in 2013.

But that was not the end of the Board of Trade. Company president Ernest Bruno and café manager Arlene Rule moved to 10-12 East Broadway—the California Saloon building (second structure on that site to bear that name) and opened the Board of Trade in its third building in 1965. Unfortunately, a disastrous fire on June 24, 1969, destroyed all four buildings on the corner of Main and Broadway, including the Board of Trade. It did not rise again.

In the video clip in the link below from Franklin Roosevelt’s 1932 campaign visit to Butte, you’ll catch a glimpse of the old Board of Trade on East Park Street at about 1:27. The Butte footage runs from about 1:20 to 2:05.

Resources: Vertical files at Butte Archives; city directories; Sanborn Maps; Butte Evening News for Feb. 20, 1910; Montana Standard for June 9, 1959. Arthur Rothstein photo via Library of Congress. Thanks to Matt Vincent for pointing out the video of the Roosevelt campaign trip to Butte to me. Board of Trade matchbook cover in Dick Gibson's collection.


  1. Hi Richard, My great grandfather Morris Siegel operated a pawn shop out of 18 East Park between 1902 and 1913. I've really enjoyed reading about him and his antics in archived copies of the Anaconda Standard. For example, he got chased out of the Collar and Elbow Saloon by a drunk and hid on top of a Meaderville car. Then there was the time he got beat up by a prostitute in pleasant alley when he went to retrieve some lingerie he loaned her. I wish I could have seen Butte at the turn of the century and now I'm going to go buy a copy of lost Butte! Any other sources of information you can recommend? Thanks, Lori Siegel

    1. Thanks for the great history! They are a bit past that time (more 1920s) but Wide Open Town (Myron Brining) and Mile High, Mile Deep (Richard O'Malley) are fictionalized accounts that give a great image of the way things were. For the time up to 1906, The Battle For Butte (Malone) is an excellent scholarly history. John Astle's Only In Butte has vignettes from all over the time line, and Zena Beth McGlashan's Buried in Butte is a huge source of information. Hope this helps! Thanks again - Dick Gibson

  2. You're a treasure in Butte. I was born there in 1940, left in the early 1960s, and now I visit it only through Facebook and real books, the most recent of which is your Lost Butte, received from Amazon yesterday.
    It's a wonderful read, sometimes tapping into my nostalgia and other times reminding or teaching me about Lost Facts.
    Best wishes to you,
    Elma Longley