Central Business District, Butte

Butte National Historic Landmark 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 Date: [no date]
West Side of Main Street, Butte, Montana
West Side of Main Street, Butte, Montana Hand sketch of Butte, Montana on the west side of Main Street from Granite to Broadway. Artist's rendering of a street scene with numerous storefronts in the background and horse-drawn carts on the street in the foreground. Businesses include D.J. Hennessy & Co., Centennial Brewery, First National Bank, Sand and Boyce Dry Goods, Babcock the Hatter, and Kahnweiler's Bazaar. Pedestrians and other people visible on boardwalk. From the Inter Mountain Holiday Edition, 1887-1888, page 5. Catalog #946-018 Source: Montana Historical Society Research Center Photograph Archives, Helena, MT Creator: A. Zeese & Co. Date: ca. 1887
West Side of Main Street, Butte, Montana
West Side of Main Street, Butte, Montana Hand sketch of Butte, Montana on the west side of Main Street, from Park South looking southwest. Artist's rendering of a street scene with storefronts in the background, horse-drawn carts and pedestrians on the street in the foreground. Utility poles visible to the left and center of the view. Butte Carriage Works and Arion Hall visible. From the Inter Mountain Holiday Edition, 1887-1888, page 5. Collection #946-021 Source: Montana Historical Society Research Center Photograph Archives, Helena, MT Creator: A. Zeese & Co. Date: ca. 1887

Location

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 | Private

Metadata

The Montana National Register Sign Program, “Central Business District, Butte,” Story of Butte, accessed February 22, 2024, https://storyofbutte.org/items/show/37.