Butte’s early Catholic community built its first parish church, a temporary wooden structure, west of this site in 1879. Father John Dols, the first pastor, arrived in the spring of 1881. The following year the cornerstone for a new church was laid, and formal dedication of St. Patrick’s took place in 1884. Two one-story wings were added to the original central portion in 1896, shaping the structure to its present appearance. Although exterior remodeling has somewhat altered St. Patrick’s original façade, the graceful spire and elegant Gothic arches reflect its original design.
St. Patrick’s Church is often referred to as the “Mother Church” of Butte’s Catholic community, because it was first established as a mission in 1866. In Butte’s pioneer camp days, St. Patrick’s was not only the sole Catholic church in the Butte area, but the only church edifice of any denomination. The cornerstone of Butte’s early Irish community, St. Patrick’s had 2,500 parishioners in 1885, representing almost two-thirds of Butte’s registered church members. Membership had almost tripled by 1889 and stood at 10,000 in 1901. By 1917, Butte’s nine Catholic churches had a combined membership of 15,000, by far the largest in the area.
Only one of the original stained glass windows from St. Patrick’s earlier days remains, however. It is the window depicting St. Patrick, and it is on display in the rear choir loft of the church. In the late 1940s, an ambitious renovation of the church was undertaken. Exterior brickwork was re-done, the front entrance stairs of the church were re-designed for better access, and new stained glass windows and bronze doors were installed. The manufacturer of the windows in St. Patrick’s is unknown.
The windows on the south wall (front façade) depict the seven sacraments. A high round window above the front door portrays Baptism, while six lancet-shaped windows depict Confirmation, Holy Eucharist, Penance, Extreme Unction, Holy Orders, and Matrimony. These windows are partially obscured due to an interior renovation of the church, which was completed in 1965, creating a vestibule with a choir loft above it. The round baptism window is only visible on the inside by peering down from the loft.
The saints depicted in the side windows include beloved Irish saints Patrick, Brigid, and Brendan. Also represented are the figures of Christ the King, Our Lady of Fatima, St. Joseph, St. John the Evangelist, and St. Francis Xavier. Windows above the side bronze doors portray the Nativity and Pentecost. Lastly, in the sacristy is a window depicting St. Michael, likely chosen because he was the name saint of a priest who served the parish over a 25-year-span.