Central Business District

A catastrophic fire consumed much of Main Street in 1879, removing traces of Butte’s mining camp past and ushering in a new era of masonry and stone construction. In the 1880s, single miners remained the primary customers of the district’s gambling halls, saloons, and brothels. However, the city was maturing, and architect-designed theaters, banks, lodges, and churches soon joined the streetscape. Dozens of commercial blocks incorporated locally manufactured metal cornices and cast-iron facades, and by 1891, even Chinatown boasted substantial brick buildings. By 1896, Butte had become a leading copper producer, and architects consciously designed edifices worthy of the city’s new status as an industrial giant. The War of the Copper Kings caused economic uncertainty and slowed commercial development, but with the victory of Amalgamated Copper Company (later renamed the Anaconda Copper Mining Company), the early twentieth century witnessed construction of some of Butte’s most distinguished buildings. Multistoried apartments like the 1903 Hirbour Tower and the 1906 Metals Bank building, hallmarks of big cities like New York and Chicago, added urban flair, while the 1910 Beaux Arts county courthouse provided another assertion of permanence. Progressive Era attempts to clean up Chinatown and the Red Light district drastically reshaped the district’s southern end. After 1911, automobile garages, showrooms, and service stations replaced deteriorating wooden cribs and Chinese laundries. Butte reached its economic zenith during World War I, and today’s business district still reflects the copper metropolis’s pre-World War I history. Over 100 buildings constructed before 1900 still stand, as do more than another 100 built between 1900 and 1920.

Images

Miner's Union Day

Miner's Union Day

A Great Day in Butte, Miners' Union Day Catalog # ST 001.077 | Source: Montana Historical Society Research Center Photograph Archives, Helena, MT | Creator: N.A. Forsyth View File Details Page

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private

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Bounded on the north by Quartz Street, on the south by Porphyry Street, on the west by Washington Street, and on the east by Arizona Street
Butte, Montana [map]

Cite this Page:

The Montana National Register Sign Program, “Central Business District,” Explore Big – Montana's Historic Places, accessed March 24, 2017, http://explorebig.org/items/show/37.

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