By Mark Reavis
Status: Vacant, undergoing restoration (2013)
Wood frame buildings with a brick veneer began to be constructed in Butte during the late 1870s as a reaction to major urban fires. Brick and the use of formal architectural style are indications of Butte’s transition from a temporary camp to an established city. This building is an early example of this transition. It was almost certainly constructed in 1883, the date of the newspapers used to span the gaps in the interior sheathing boards.
The mansard second story space and arched projecting dormers identify this refined structure as French Second Empire. The presence of separate rooms and connecting hallways on both levels suggest that despite the small size, this building was probably designed and initially used as a small hotel or boarding house. It had a relatively large one-story kitchen at the rear, and is located on a slight rise along what was once an important travelers’ route into Butte along Washington and Idaho Streets. South of this building were several livery stables and associated businesses catering to travelers, and the adjacent property to the north has a barn on the alley. The building is near what was, in 1883, the southern edge of the most densely built-up part of Butte. Nearby, both Idaho Street Alley and Washington Street Alley had a predominance of alley-addressed housing that faced these narrow corridors, though demolition has greatly reduced their numbers in recent decades. A small two-room miner’s cabin with independent doors still exists facing the alley.
The first addition to the boarding house was a second story room that caps the kitchen. Still evident is the half-hip kitchen roof that was covered. The structure that covers the kitchen is much more typical of many of Butte’s buildings, with its use of 2 x 4 and wood lath that received plaster. Milled and planed lumber instead of rough-sawn boards also mark this change in construction. Exterior details were also simplified in this capping room addition. About the turn of last century the Victorian-style front porch was added; the dental brackets of the facia board extend behind and are hidden by the porch addition. The turned columns are common to many homes that were influenced by the Queen Anne decorative style popular at the time (1890s). Note that the columns of the porch do not match: the southeastern corner column is slightly different in design and proportion.
Photos by Richard Gibson. This article is modified slightly from its original publication in the Vernacular Architecture Forum Guidebook, Butte, 2009.