Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Butte, MT

You can see the mine shaft headframes in the midst of downtown Butte.

Starting in the late 1800s with gold and silver mining, it evolved into one of the richest copper districts, hence the nickname above.  By the 1920s the population was 60,000, but by 1990 it had declined to 34,000, where it has stabilized.

This is memorial to auditor, a pup which was abandoned in the mining area and lived for 17 years.  No one could catch the dog, but the miners put out clean water and food.  It survived in the toxic mines, no one knows how, and would disappear for days or weeks, then show up unexpectly again.  He became the mascot of Butte, representing the spirit and toughness of the city.

These swings are one of kind and are over 100 years old.  My guide on the tour bus remembers these from his childhood.  

Although most of the underground mines closed in the 1950s, above ground mining continued until 1983.  Most of what you see continuing today is clean up of the toxic waste sites.

More mine shaft headframes found in town.

The trolley tour bus.

The Berkeley Pit opened in the 1950s and was mined until the 1980s.   When the underground mines closed, much of the toxic wastewater flowed into the pit.  

It was designated as a Superfund clean up site in the late 1980s, but it was not until the 1990s that serious clean up work started.  The water is so toxic that any birds which land and stay longer than six hours, will die.  They now have horns which sound anytime birds land on the toxic water. Part of the clean up effort involves taking the toxic water and processing it with recycled tin cans, whereby the result is the removal of high levels of copper.  So if you wonder where all the recycled tin cans are taken, you will find they are sent to Butte.

The Dumas Hotel/Brothel.  Opened in the late 1800s and operated until 1982.

The Mai Wah Museum shows the history of the Chinese immigrants to the area.

The Mother Lode Theater.  Originally built in 1923 as a Masonic Temple Theater, during the depression it was leased out as a movie theater.  Eventually it fell to ruins for lack of funds, but in 1980 was restored and remodeled and reopened under the name of Mother Lode Theater, reflecting the history of the town.

Many of the homes reflect the money that once existed in this town, even though the homes have fallen into ruin.

Some of the homes are being restored.

Because of the many immigrants brought to Butte to mine, you find many styles of homes and architecture.

Built in 1906, this home mirrored wealth and power.  You can definitely tell the difference between the mine owners homes and the lowly miners.  But even miners made good money.  Our tour guide said he could make $200 a day in the deep mines, versus $20 a day for laborers above ground.  The issue was your chance of living to retire was very low if you worked in the deep mines, some as deep as 4,000 feet.

A local mining museum has many pieces of equipment from the local mines.

This home was built by William Andrews Clark, one of the Copper Kings, for his son Charles.  It was built based on Charles' description of a French Chateau that Charles had visited while in France.  The home has 26 rooms, including a ballroom on the 4th floor.

Headframe of the original Butte mine, operating from 1878-1976.  It was 3,569 feet deep.
I wish I had had more time to explore this interesting city.  Just one more place to return to.

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