By Richard I. Gibson
821-823-825-827 E. Front Street
Built: 1906; 1888
Status: Demolished Feb.-March 2014
The intersection of Utah and Front Streets in the 1880s and early 1890s was the heart of South Butte, a separate town with its own address scheme and population count until the mid-1890s. Front Street was the embarkation point for many travelers, with the Montana Central Railroad just south of the warehouses on the south side of the street. In 1906, the Northern Pacific Depot was completed across the street from these two buildings, and still stands. The area was platted in 1881 as the Noyes & Upton Railroad Addition.
|128 E. Park|
|Bennett Block #2 -- upper level detail|
In 1890, a two-story building to the west was completed. It held a gambling hall and saloon. In 1906, as reflected in the year emblazoned on the parapet, a new building was erected there, Bennett Block #2 (left in photo at top). By 1908, the two Bennett buildings together comprised the Bennett Hotel, with “transients solicited” to enjoy electric lights, steam heat, stationary basins, and baths. The ground floor continued to serve as retail space, including a drug store and a restaurant.
|Bennett Block #1 facade and parapet detail|
The ghost sign on the back (north side) of Bennett Block #1 reflects the 1920s grocery store that was in the easternmost retail space. The Stilwell Grocery was owned and operated by Elias (President) and Roy (Vice President) Stilwell. They lived with their wives Olive and Rita at 2710 and 2802 State Street, respectively (the Floral Park neighborhood). In 1928 when the Stilwell Grocery was on the ground floor, the upper level continued as the Bennett Hotel, managed by Mrs. Agnes Brady.
|Stilwell Grocery ghost sign (1920s)|
The city and county of Butte-Silver Bow inherited the Brinck’s building on unpaid taxes in 2009. Although offered to developers twice, no one took the property. Demolition was planned, but that was tabled in 2011 when it was discovered that the Deluxe, which was still in use next door, used as one of its walls the original west wall of the Brinck’s building. The Brinck’s was ordered to be mothballed by the city in September 2011, but a required roof or roof patch was never done, and in May 2012 the city declared it a safety hazard and planned again to demolish it. The problem with the common wall continued to be an issue until the city paid the owner of the Deluxe $40,000 to purchase it so that both buildings could be demolished. The pair was offered again on developers’ packet in 2013, but the two expressions of interest were deemed to be incomplete or untimely. As of November 2013, the city awaits an asbestos abatement analysis and plans to demolish both buildings.
Resources: Architectural inventories in Butte Archives; city directories; Sanborn maps; Council of Commissioners meetings. Council Saloon image in “Some Representative Businesses, Butte, Montana,” c. 1901. Modern photos by Richard I. Gibson.