Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Apex Hotel

By Richard I. Gibson

429 West Park Street
Built: 1918

Built by William Robertson for the Tait brothers, this residential hotel is typical of many erected during Butte's population explosion in the 1910s. John Tait was a dentist in 1910, in partnership with A.H. Cole with offices at 48 W. Park. John’s brother George was a clerk for the Anaconda Company, boarding at 844 W. Silver. By 1914 the Taits were evidently successful enough to branch into real estate, hiring William Robertson to erect the Tait Hotel on East Broadway that year; John lived at the Tait Hotel in 1915-17. In 1918 John's office was on the sixth floor of the Phoenix Building and George was a teller at Miners Savings Bank, and both lived at the Apex once it was completed. In 1928, George was out of the picture, John had moved his office to room 103 in the Pennsylvania Block, four blocks east of the Apex Hotel, and his wife Hattie managed the Apex.

The Tait family home in the 1890s, where I believe John and George lived as children, was at 13 West Copper, next door to a Chinese Laundry. It is a vacant lot today. Their father Robert was a contractor and a carpenter.

In 1923 the five-year-old hotel's residents included Mollie Allen, high school teacher; Juanita Daniels, clerk at the Leggat Hotel; J.J. Delphin, manager at the Ground Gripper Shoe Store at 112 W. Park; Kathryn Dowd, bookkeeper at the C.O.D. Laundry; and H.R. Doyle, a concrete loader.

So far as I can tell, Dr. John Tait was only directly associated with the Tait Hotel on Broadway Street until 1918 when the Apex was built. Beginning in 1917, he is no longer listed as the proprietor of the Tait Hotel, which was run by Mrs. Niconor Swanson.

Resources: Architectural inventories; Butte Miner, March 24, 1918 (historic photo); city directories; Sanborn maps. Modern photo by Richard I. Gibson.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

The Five-Mile House

By Richard I. Gibson

5100 Harrison Avenue
Built: c. 1905

The highway out of Butte to the east went south, along what is now Harrison Avenue and ultimately over Pipestone Pass to Whitehall. The route was marked by inns – Mile Houses – at least at 4, 5, 9, 10, 11, and 18 miles from the heart of uptown Butte, the last one about five miles east of the Continental Divide. The two most famous survivors are the Nine Mile, in Thompson Park, and the Five Mile, at 5100 Harrison.

An inn, with a café and saloon, was probably at this location by the late 1880s and certainly by the early 1890s. The property was owned in the mid-1890s by ticket broker, cigar wholesaler, and later real estate tycoon Adolph Pincus. In 1896, all the personal property in the place, owned by one Ida Au Claire, was offered in security to Pincus for a loan of $855, which he carried at 2½% interest per month. The property included 8 horses, three wagons, two pair of bobsleds, and 150 cords of wood.

The inn on this site in the earliest 1900s was a resort and venue for prize fights “which could not be pulled off in Butte.” “Kid Foley” and “Kid Opie” both boxed there in lightweight bouts in 1901, and the place was well known as a venue for large private parties. Because of the proximity to the cemeteries out Harrison Avenue, it was also a frequent stopping-place for after-burial gatherings.

The original hostelry burned to the ground November 13, 1902. A kitchen fire spread, and the proprietor’s wife (Mrs. Joseph Ethier) reportedly suffered serious burns and injuries when she jumped from a second-floor window. The building was a total loss, estimated at $3,000.

Frank Cash, 1920
Frank Cash (1858-1931) was an Austrian immigrant by way of New York. He came to the U.S. about 1886 and was in Butte by 1891, and after a short stint as a miner he began to work as a saloonkeeper. In 1898 Mr. Cash lived in Meaderville working as a laborer, but by 1900 he was operating a saloon at his residence at 21 Lincoln in Meaderville. The next year he had a new saloon at 1260 Talbot, the continuation of Mercury Street. His saloon was at Talbot and Watson, with the Monitor Mine in the back yard and the massive Braund Boarding House across the street (Lost Butte, p. 34-35). The Pennsylvania Mine was just a few blocks straight north. His saloon, with a restaurant in the rear, came to be called the Cash House. This area is all in the Berkeley Pit or eradicated by its margin today.

About 1905 Frank Cash moved out Harrison Avenue to a house and saloon across from the present Five Mile House, which was built probably by 1904 or 1905. In 1906, family lore says the flip of a silver dollar allowed him to buy the Five Mile (if it had gone the other way, the owner of the Five Mile would have bought him out), and the family had many decades of connection to the place thereafter. In addition to managing the Five Mile House, Frank was the regional distributor for the Wurlitzer Music Company in Butte; one transaction in 1914 grossed $1,550 in a sale of a violin, flute, and piano.

Frank left Butte when prohibition started in 1919, moving to the Bitterroot Valley where he established a famous $100,000 ranch on 1,000 acres along Skalkaho Creek where he raised registered shorthorn cattle.

After Frank left Butte, his daughter Louise Kall managed the Five Mile even after divorcing her husband Martin Kall, and her daughter (Louise) and granddaughter (Donna Anderson) ran the place well into the 2000s.

Resources: excellent basic research and family history by Carl Jones (great-great grandson of Frank Cash), Butte High School, Ann Cote Smith Essay Contest, 2003; Butte Archives MC494-Box 1-FF 006 including Pincus chattel mortgage; Archives VF 0875.2; Anaconda Standard Nov. 13, 1902; Anaconda Standard July 4, 1920 (Frank Cash photo); Anaconda Standard Feb. 23, 1931; The 1919 Blue Book road guide for travelers; Sanborn maps; city directories. Building photo by Richard I. Gibson.

Schumacher Building (25 S. Montana)

By Richard I. Gibson

Built: 1919

Anaconda Standard, Nov 2, 1919
In 1919 H.J. Schumacher had this 36x32-foot business block constructed as a showroom and garage for the Buick Motor Company. It replaced two 2-story duplexes on Montana Street and a single-story home on Galena. Arnold & Van House architects designed the building and the construction contractors were Kroffganz & Frank. The roof was erected by Carlson & Manuell, contractors noted for their heavy girder work at the Park Street YMCA and elsewhere. The building featured a second-story dance hall which was promoted as the largest in the state, accommodating 400 people on the dance floor, and including a gallery of tiered seats, cloak rooms, and restrooms for the patrons. The hardwood flooring in the dance hall displays the fact that the building is not quite square, like many uptown Butte buildings where streets don’t quite follow property lines that are sometimes along old mining claim boundaries. The dance floor is supported by huge metal turnbuckles that are exposed in the ceiling of the ground floor.

Over time the building saw various uses. In 1928, Schumacher had a meat store across the street (listed as 20 S. Montana, but there is no such address; his meat market was at 222 East Park in 1910, when he lived with his wife Jennie at 736 S. Wyoming) and lived in the upstairs apartment here (21 S. Montana) and managed the Rosemont Pavilion, as the dance hall was called. The building was still an auto sales and service center in the 1950s, with a wholesale tire dealership on the second floor. More recently the block was home to the Pioneer Club (which owned the building from the 1940s until 2010), City Vac and Sew, and Schulte’s Glass. In 2011 John and Courtney McKee renovated the building and in early 2012 opened Headframe Spirits, a boutique distillery, whose products bear names of Butte mines. Destroying Angel whiskey reflects the fact that the building stands on the western limit of the interesting Destroying Angel claim. The dance hall upstairs continues to be used for events.

Resources: Architectural inventory; Sanborn maps; city directories; Anaconda Standard, Nov 2, 1919. Modern photo by Richard I. Gibson. Text modified from write-up by Gibson in Butte CPR 2011 Dust-to-Dazzle tour guide.

Grand Hotel (Wheeler Block)

By Richard I. Gibson

124 W. Broadway
Built: 1916-17

The building known as the Grand Hotel began as a three-story labor temple in 1915-16, intended to be a meeting place for plumbers and other unions. To cover debts, the unions sold it to Butte lawyer and U.S. District Attorney (later U.S. Senator from Montana) Burton K. Wheeler, who added two stories by the time it was finished in 1917.

The façade is marked by terra cotta tiles and cornice, dressed stone columns, and decorative prism glass bricks in the transom level and in the central stair windows. Others managed the Grand Hotel for Wheeler for about 15 years until he sold it, but it continued as a hotel until 1989. A dance school conducted classes here in the early 1940s.

A promoter bought the Grand in 1989 and began to develop it as a boxing training center, with lodgings on the upper floors. In the summer of 1991 fireworks started a fire that was quickly controlled, but the following January a fire consumed most of the fifth floor and destroyed the roof. The building stood empty for about three years and reverted to the city-county of Butte-Silver Bow for unpaid taxes, and a new roof was installed. Various owners had it until 2011 when Chuck and Lyza Schnabel purchased the building and renovated the basement for the Quarry Brewery and tap room, which opened on Sept. 29, 2011. The ground floor was renovated in 2012-13. Plans for the upper floors include bed and breakfast, condos, and private usage.

Note: the photo above is from 2011 before three new store fronts were renovated on the ground floor.

Resources: Architectural inventory; Sanborn maps; Historic Uptown Butte, by John DeHaas, Jr. (1977). Photo by Richard I. Gibson. Text modified from write-up by Gibson in Butte CPR 2012 Dust-to-Dazzle tour guide.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Pekin Noodle Parlor (117 S Main Street)

Built: 1909
Architect: George DeSnell

Ellen Baumler's blog post: "Not a brothel"

Butte’s Chinese community settled on this block in the 1880s. Dwellings, club rooms, laundries, restaurants, and stores selling Chinese goods crowded its thoroughfares and alleyways. This business block is a lone survivor displaying Asian roots. G. E. DeSnell designed the building on speculation for Butte attorney F. T. McBride. Upon completion in 1909, Hum Yow moved his Mercury Street noodle parlor to the second floor and soon owned the property. Upstairs noodle parlors were common in urban Chinese communities and the Pekin’s central stair and sign long beckoned customers.

Close proximity to Butte’s once teeming red light district has fueled local legends about the Pekin’s curtained booths.  However, these booths were a fixture in Asian restaurants and simply offered diners privacy. The two ground-floor storefronts housed Hum Yow’s Chinese Goods and Silks and G. P. Meinhart’s sign painting business. Hum Yow and his wife Bessie Wong—both California-born first-generation Chinese—raised three children in the rear living quarters. The Hums retired to California in 1952 and several more generations of the family have maintained this landmark business. Ding Tam (Danny Wong) and his son Jerry Tam celebrated the centennial of the family’s connection to the Pekin in 2011. News storyMenu

Resources: Historic plaque by Montana Historical Society. Top photo by Richard I. Gibson; black-and-while photo, 1979, by Jet Lowe, HABS/HAER (Library of Congress, public domain).

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

116 West Park (Original City Hall)

Built: 1884

By the early 1880s the railroad linked Butte to the outside world and the town had established itself as a mining camp with a great future. One of the few standing structures from the formative era is this masonry, two-story landmark (center of photo above; Jail House Coffee Shop). Under construction in 1884, it housed the first official city administrative offices. Included among these were the jail and a courtroom. Although the height of the second-story windows has been reduced, the upper portion of the building appears as it did in the 1880s. Ornate details along the parapet of angled and corbelled brick reveal the excellence of Butte’s early brick masons. After 1890 city offices moved, and the façade was modified to accommodate commercial space. The original stairway at the east end remains intact.

Although this was the first city hall, the jail here was the second city jail. The pre-1884 jail was located on Jackson Street, between Park and Galena. It was the far west edge of town at the time. 

Source: Modified from historic plaque by Montana Historical Society. Photo by Richard I. Gibson.

Index to place-based posts on Butte History blog

This is the first of several posts intended to serve as an index to place-based posts on the Butte History blog. Rather than duplicate them here, they are linked below and indexed with a label "Butte History blog posts."

Butte Miner Building
Greeley School
41-43 E. Broadway (Southern Hotel vaulted sidewalks)
Sacred Heart (444 E. Park)
Elizabeth Lochrie House (Granite at Emmett) 
First House in Butte (E. Quartz)
Basin Creek Reservoir Caretaker’s House 
Owsley Block (Park and Main)
Pennsylvania Mine disaster
Polygamy Alley (between Granite and Broadway)
Patrick Largey House (403 W. Broadway)
223 E. Granite (Julia Coughlin) 
Board of Trade (16 E. Park)
Richards & Rochelle (Main Street)
Gertie the Babyseller (Hamilton Street)
Warehouse Explosions (Jan. 15, 1895)
Bluebird Mine & Mill (Burlington)
First House in South Butte (900 block S. Wyoming)
Walkerville 1884  

121-127 W. Broadway

By Richard I. Gibson
Built: 1916

This building originally contained three store fronts on the ground floor and five apartments upstairs. The Butte Miner newspaper used this building (mostly the middle office, 125 W. Broadway) as its primary corporate office, serving the larger, 5-story Miner Building to the east on Broadway, where editorial offices and presses were housed. The Miner had been at this location since 1902, but the 1902 structure here was replaced by this building in 1916. After W.A. Clark died in 1925, his son, W.A. Clark, Jr., fought the Anaconda Company and his own relatives for three years over ownership of the Butte Miner and other Clark assets. But by August 1928 he lost that struggle, and the Anaconda Standard took control of the Butte Miner. The new combined newspaper became the Montana Standard.

125 W. Broadway became home to the Goodyear Shoe Company, while 121 W. Broadway (right side in photo above) held Mother’s Way Bakeshop for many years in the 1920s and 1930s. The western storefront, 127, was a hairdressing salon. Later tenants included S. J. Perry’s first Uptown office in 1939 and the Christian Science Reading Room from about 1954 to 1981. An adult bookstore occupied the building from 1982 to 2012. The second level apartments (123 W. Broadway) contain interesting Craftsman-style columns in the main rooms, and to save space, beds roll out from under closets and bathrooms.

New owners as of 2012 have renovated the building, returning the ground floor to three store fronts and revitalizing the upstairs apartments. The stone front seen in the photo above dates to about the 1980s.

Resources: Architectural inventory, 1928 newspapers, Sanborn maps, city directories. Note that city directories assign various offices of Clark businesses (Timber Butte Mill, Elm Orlu Mining, Street Railway, and others) to this address, but they were actually in the Miner Building a half block east. The story of Montana's newspapers and their relationship to the Anaconda Company is told in Dennis Swibold's Copper Chorus (Montana Historical Society Press, 2006). Photo by Richard I. Gibson.

Monday, November 18, 2013

220-224 N. Main (Chambers Block, Anaconda Company Pay Office)

By Linda Albright
Built: pre-1884

In 1884-85 the building was occupied by Hoge Brownlee & Company Bank in the northwest corner of the first floor; the rest of the first floor contained W. R. Kenyon & Company Hardware & Mining Machinery. It had a stone basement with its own boiler in the southeast corner of the basement. The building was owned by Marcus Daly in the mid-1880s and later by Donahue & Moyer; in 1900, the Daly Bank & Trust Company owned and occupied the building. John D. Ryan was bank president and John R. Toole served as vice president. This is the location where Ryan, later president of the Anaconda Company as well as the Montana Power Company (see this link to his house) became acquainted with Marcus Daly. 

By 1908, this block was owned by and housed the Anaconda Copper Mining Company’s pay office. Also known as the Mines Office (first floor rear), it also contained the ACM purchasing department on the second floor. In later years, the telephone switchboard and operators were located on the second floor at the rear of the building.

By the 1950s, the ACM still used this building for offices, but the pay office had moved around the corner to the adjacent building to the east (18 E. Quartz St., at left in photo at top).

During the labor troubles of the 1910s, the pay office was dynamited Sunday, July 6, 1919. “Little damage was done,” according to the Engineering & Mining Journal, but the New York Times reported “an iron grating was blown against a building across the street, narrowly missing a street car heavily loaded with miners. The damage is estimated at $5,000.” Windows were broken in 6 nearby stores.

Sources: Architectural inventory; Engineering & Mining Journal, Vol. 108, no. 2; New York Times July 6, 1919; Sanborn maps. Photo by Richard I. Gibson.

304 North Main Street (Tuttle Building)

Built: 1892
Builder: J.C. Martin

Shelley Tuttle began a Butte foundry and machine shop business in 1881. By 1890, the expanded Tuttle Manufacturing and Supply Company had a plant in Anaconda and employed twelve machinists, blacksmiths, molders, and pattern makers. Tuttle supplied parts and machinery for local mining operations, including the immense smelter works of Marcus Daly, who was a major stockholder in Tuttle’s company. In 1892, Tuttle built this business block as an outlet for his foundry products and to house an inventory of hardware goods. Tuttle was also agent for Ingersoll-Sargeant drills, Knowles steam pumps, and a wire rope company.

Butte builder J. C. Martin designed the three-story brick building with graceful brick arches and rusticated stone trim. Besides mining supplies and machinery, Tuttle’s foundry manufactured cast-iron storefronts and architectural ornamentation like the metal brackets that support the cornice displayed here. He also sold home furnishings and Garland stoves. Daly bought out the company in 1896 and changed its name to the Anaconda Copper Mining Company Hardware Department. Daly Bank and Trust owed the building for a time in the early 1900s.  The descendent of Tuttle’s foundry still operates in Anaconda today.

Interior office, 1944
By the 1940s, this was the General Office of the Anaconda Company, housing such offices as the Purchasing Department, Coal Sales, Hardware Dept., Auditing, Insurance, War Bonds and Payroll processing, the Duplicating Department, and Kenwood Realty, a division of the company that managed its rentals and collected mortgage payments on properties sold by the Company.  In 1944, the Anaconda Company leased equipment from the International Business Machine (IBM) Co. at a cost of more than $5,000 a month, enabling them to use more than 10,000,000 “tabulating cards” that could produce paychecks at a rate of 18 per minute in this building, for distribution at the Mines Office (Pay Office) across the street to the south. The cards detailed 80 types of employee pay classifications and 700 contract pay rates.

The Montana Power Co. occupied the building in the 1970s.

More recently, the building has housed social welfare organizations including the Public Housing Authority, Butte Literacy Program, and Homeward Bound Community Health services.

Resources: Historic plaque by Montana Historical Society; architectural inventory; Copper Commando, vol. 2, no. 26, August 18, 1944: Digital Commons at Montana Tech. Historic photos probably by Copper Commando chief photographer Robert I. Nesmith; modern photo by Richard I. Gibson. Text from historic plaque with additions by Linda Albright and Richard Gibson.

Scott Block (15 W. Copper)

15 W. Copper
Builder: J.R. McGlauflin

Single copper miners found ample accommodations at this fine boarding house, built in 1897 by J. R. McGlauflin for Mrs. Bridget Scott at a construction cost of $5,000. The handsome brick building with its full-height opposing bays, transomed windows, bracketed wood cornice, and central name plate illustrates an urban solution to a mining camp problem: adequate and ample housing for single men. In 1910, boardinghouse keeper Mrs. Mary Long had thirteen lodgers, and all but one (a postal clerk) worked in the copper mining industry. Rented rooms were on the second and third floors. Mrs. Long had her own rooms on the ground floor, where she prepared meals and served her boarders.

Extensive rehabilitation between 1991 and 1994 included a new metal roof like the original and restoration of interior transoms and rosette-trimmed woodwork. During these efforts, owners found a Prohibition Era treasure: concealed under the furnace room floor were two intact whiskey barrels.

Resource: Historic plaque by Montana Historical Society, with additions by Linda Albright. Photo by Linda Albright.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Socialist Hall (1957 Harrison Avenue)

Built: 1916

Hands and forearms clasped in solidarity symbolize a movement of local and national significance during the first decades of the twentieth century. One of the few socialist meeting halls remaining in the United States, the building is a monument to a turbulent era of labor unrest and political action. Socialists in Montana played an active role in forcing mainstream politicians to consider labor reforms. At the turn of the twentieth century, the Anaconda Copper Mining Company dominated Montana politics, much of the economy, and nearly everything in Butte, personifying all the negative aspects of the capitalist system. Butte, known as the “Gibraltar of Unionism” with its huge working class, was thus central to the socialist movement.

Members constructed this hall in 1916. It was the heart of socialist activity in Montana, housing the Socialist Party of Montana, the Butte Local, and the Butte Socialist Publishing Company. World War I hysteria prompted Montana to enact the nation’s most stringent measures to suppress radicalism and dissent. The Socialist Party suffered severely. In 1920, it deeded the building to the Bulletin Publishing Company, whose Butte Bulletin, edited by electrician and radical unionist W. F. Dunne, carried on the party’s principles by supporting the Non-Partisan League. Dunne lost the building to taxes in 1924 and the Bulletin ceased publication. Socialist Hall, with its rallying inscription “Workers of the World Unite,” is a poignant reminder of the efforts to create a “cooperative commonwealth” and the solidarity engendered by the Socialist Party of Montana.

Although the building is outside the boundary of the Butte-Anaconda National Historic Landmark District, it is officially a part of it, and it is also an independently listed National Register property, one of only 15 in Silver Bow County. Fran Johnson’s sport shop has occupied the building for many years.
Source: Modified slightly from historical plaque by Montana Historical Society. Photos by Richard I. Gibson (also found on Wikipedia).

Bennett Block #1 and #2 (Brinck's and Deluxe)

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
In late 1888 Bennett Block #1 (at right in photo at top) was constructed. Willard Bennett lived in Deer Lodge but was owner of the building and Vice President of Bennett Brothers Co., a dealer in agricultural implements, carriages, wagons, and produce. In addition to the store and office here, they had a large warehouse across Front Street as well as a store at 124-128 East Park in another “Bennett Block,” also known as the Willard House (lodgings) and (on the Arizona Street side) the Nelson Block. A saloon of various names occupied part of 128 E. Park for many years—from about 1901-1910 it was called The Council. The southwest corner of Park and Arizona is mostly a vacant lot today, with a small vacant spa store.

Bennett Block #2 -- upper level detail
Bennett Block #1 in 1890 contained a general store, a cigar and stationery store, and the South Butte Post Office.

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)
By 1944 Block #1 was owned by Harry Brinck, the Montana state distributor for Rock-Ola phonographs, amusement games, and novelties. His long tenure there, into the 1970s, gives the common name to the building today: Brinck’s. Block #2 for many more recent years served as the Deluxe Café and Bar, and was still in use in 2012.

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.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

42 West Broadway (Independent Order of Good Templars)

Built: 1891
Architect: Henry Patterson

Both men and women were admitted to this temperance organization, whose Montana Grand Lodge was organized in 1868. Butte Lodge #14 commissioned architect H. M. Patterson to design this appealing three-story building, completed in 1891, where the third floor served as the group’s meeting hall. While Patterson demonstrated exceptional talent in local residential design, his commercial and public commissions were the key to his considerable reputation. This was his first major commercial project. The upper floors reveal Patterson’s creative flair: graceful semi-circular arches, recessed windows with rough-faced stone sills, and fine decorative brickwork. The building’s sometime use as a bar defied the Templar ethic to “…never cease until the last vestige of that fearful vice … is driven from our land.” Today, an antique shop occupies the ground floor.

In 2013, the vaulted sidewalk here was replaced, revealing the early construction method. A wooden framework was built within the vault, and wood planks, about 2”x12” were laid down to create a substrate upon which the concrete sidewalk was poured. When vaulted sidewalks are retained in Butte today, a steel framework forms the base for the concrete.

 Resource: Historical plaque by Montana Historical Society. See also Historic Uptown Butte, by John DeHaas, Jr., privately published, 1977. Photo by Richard I. Gibson.

205 North Washington

Built: 1891

Neoclassical design elements define this substantial two-story brick home built in 1891. Dentils ornament the eaveline, multi-pane windows dominate the symmetrical front façade, and doubled columns provide support for what was once a full-length front porch with a second-story balustrade. A decorative iron fence symbolically separates the family sanctuary from the outside world and likely dates to the home’s construction.

The small garage, added sometime between 1900 and 1916, reflects the increasing importance of the automobile. Physicians were particularly indebted to their cars for ready transportation on late-night calls, and this residence was home to two doctors. Abram Leggat, a general physician and surgeon with an office in the Hennessey Building, lived here between 1900 and 1902, before he and his wife, Hattie, decided to move with their daughter to St. Louis. Dr. John McIntyre, a skilled surgeon and the medical examiner for several fraternal organizations, lived here with his wife, Annie, between 1910 and 1917.

Resource: Historical plaque by Montana Historical Society. Photo by Richard I. Gibson.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Big Hole Pump Station

Old Hwy 43, near Divide
Built: 1899 (major addition, 1906)

The Big Hole Pump Station was a creative and far-sighted solution to the water supply problems faced by the mining industry and the residential community in the Butte area. The water system pumps over 15 million gallons a day over the Continental Divide to Butte and the surrounding areas, with a maximum distance covered of almost 28 miles.

The Butte Water Company was established in 1898.  The pump station, built the next year, contained an 840-foot pump lift that fed to reservoirs on Divide Creek, and then over the Continental Divide to Basin Creek. The water drained by gravity through continuous-stave redwood pipelines to Butte. Seven zones were established to maintain appropriate pressures in the distribution system. Pumping was minimized by creating piping interconnections between three independent water sources (Yankee Doodle Creek, Basin Creek, and the Big Hole River).

Pump #2, 1979 (HABS/HAER)
The 1899 brick pump station stands on a concrete foundation and contains two 20,000-pound traveling cranes, one in each pumproom, and a large repair shop. The original #1 pump was a horizontal triple-expansion two-stage plunger pump manufactured by the Nordberg Manufacturing Co. of Madison, Wisconsin. It was initially powered by steam generated by burning coal, but it was electrified in 1907 and continued to operate until 1946.

The 1906 expansion was to accommodate the #2 pump, similar in most respects to the #1 pump. It was capable of pumping 4,000,000 gallons per day. The electric motor is an 800-horsepower induction motor. The #3 pump was installed in 1916, a Worthington five-stage horizontal turbine driven by a 1300-hp induction motor capable of pumping over 6,000,000 gallons per day. The 7-million-gallon #4 pump, dating to 1930, is a Cameron four-state 12” horizontal turbine with a 1300-hp synchronous motor. The #5 and #6 pumps, from 1954, each could pump 3.5 million gallons per day. They replaced the #1 pump, removed in 1953.

Pump #2, 2010 (Dick Gibson photo)
The 150-foot riveted steel smokestack was erected in 1899 for the original steam boilers. A coal ramp (since removed) was built onto the rear of the building for the hauling and dumping of coal into the bins. The Sterling boilers still exist but have not been used for many years.

Note: The Big Hole Pump Station is beyond the Butte-Anaconda National Historic Landmark District, but it is an independently listed National Register property in Silver Bow County (one of only 13). See also the complete HABS/HAER photo collection, as well as a set of modern photos on Facebook by Dick Gibson.    

Source: Text modified slightly from HABS/HAER documentation transmitted by Kevin Murphy, June 1984; reference: Patricia Bick and Miles Tuttle, National Register Nomination Form, May 12, 1980. Historic photos by Jet Lowe (HABS/HAER, public domain, Library of Congress); modern photo by Richard I. Gibson.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

71-73 East Park (Chester Block)

By Linda Albright

Built: 1917-18
Architect: James C. Teague

Teamsters Hall, c. 1942
Businessman Charles Steele financed the $4,500 construction costs of this exceptional commercial block, designed by Butte architect James C. Teague, in 1917 (completed 1918). The building is architecturally significant for its striking terra cotta ornamentation and historically important as the founding site of the Teamsters Union Local No. 2. This powerful group held its first meetings in the upstairs hall until they built their own building on Harrison Avenue.

The building’s upper story, with its multi-light windows, terra cotta quoins, decorative name plate, and cornice, remains in pristine condition. Terra cotta, here painted cream-color in stunning contrast with the red brick, is a feature seldom seen in Butte. The original mosaic-tiled floor spans the length of the three ground-floor entrances. Whitehead’s cutlery shop has occupied one of the two commercial spaces for many years, while the other once housed a mortuary.

During the late 1960s and early 1970s the Rumpus Room occupied the upper floor. The northeast portion of the top floor sported a bar, with the remainder of the floor dedicated to tables, chairs, and a large dance floor. At that time, entrance to the bar was from the alley. Prior to opening in the Chester Block in 1963, the Rumpus Room was located at 2 South Main St., below the Rialto Theater (demolished in 1965).

Resources: Expanded from historic plaque by Montana Historical Society. Historic photo from FSA/OWI collection (public domain), c. 1942; newspaper photo from Butte Miner, March 24, 1918; modern photo by Linda Albright.

971 North Main Street (Trinity Methodist Church)

By Linda Albright

Built: 1896

Thousands of skilled miners from Cornwall, England, immigrated to the United States in the mid-nineteenth century as English tin and copper mines played out. Many settled in Butte’s working-class communities. Centerville was home to equal numbers of Cornish, who were mostly Methodists, and Catholics from Ireland. There were two sets of businesses and two churches—one serving each group. By 1884, Centerville’s Cornish residents had formed a Methodist congregation; in 1885 they met in a small frame building on East Center Street.  

During the pastorate of Rev. Joel Vigus, the Butte and Boston Mining Company donated the land and this church was built in 1889. Together with the 4-room parsonage, the church cost $4,000, including electric lights donated by U.S. Senator (1895-99) and former Butte mayor Lee Mantle. Workers added brick veneer, a vestibule, a choir room, and dug a basement to accommodate a fellowship hall; all the extra work added about $5,000 to the cost, and the church was finally dedicated in 1896. The original stained glass windows were presented by M.J. Connell, a prominent Butte store owner. More recent stained glass windows are all dedicated, including some as recent as 1955. Much of the glass is of the opalescent variety.

View of Trinity Methodist through window of Mountain Con Hoist House
An enduring Cornish tradition is the pasty, a meat pie in a pastry envelope. Carried underground in dinner pails, miners lovingly called it a “letter from ’ome.” Trinity’s fellowship hall hosted many pasty dinners. The simple Gothic style “miner’s church” (in contrast to the “mine owners church, Mountain View) with its sturdy central tower recalls the Cornish miners and their families, far from home, who worshiped here.

Resources: Historic plaque by Montana Historical Society; Historic Stained Glass in selected houses of worship, Butte, Montana, by Richard I. Gibson and Irene Scheidecker (Butte CPR, 2006). Photos by Richard I. Gibson (the photo through the cracked Mountain Con window won an honorable mention in the National Park Service National Historic Landmarks photo contest in 2007-8, and was published as the 13th month in their 2009 calendar).

1306 North Main Street (St. Lawrence O'Toole Church)

By Linda Albright

Built: 1897
Present use: tours and special events • Preservation new story

Bishop Brondel Xavier Batens created Butte’s second Catholic parish, St. Lawrence O’Toole, in March 1897. Initially, services were held in the Hibernia Hall in Centerville on West Center Street, just west of Main Street, in a building that no long stands. The church was constructed with $25,000 raised by miners’ subscription on land donated by the Butte and Boston Mining Company, the Gothic Revival style church was completed that year in time for Christmas Day mass. Eventually, the church served 5,000 mostly Irish parishioners in the Walkerville/Centerville area. When the church was dedicated in 1898, Bishop Brondel referred to it as "a church of workingmen. There is not a rich man in the congregation. The church was paid for by the small contributions of the poor people." The intensely Irish nature of the church was reflected by its relationship with the radical Robert Emnet Literary Association (RELA), which supported the Irish rebellion. The church drama club asked for, and received, RELA rifles to use in the Christmas play in 1907. By 1910, the St. Lawrence O'Toole had 302 families, with 137 of them headed by widows.

Although a central steeple has been removed, the wood-frame building remains an excellent example of period ecclesiastical architecture, featuring exquisite fresco paintings (circa 1906) on its interior wood-beamed ceiling. The exterior was painted white in the 1960s for the filming of an episode of the television series “Route 66.”The St. Lawrence has been decommissioned as a church, and is now owned by the City of Walkerville, which opens it occasionally for tours and special occasions.

The associated St. Lawrence Catholic School is located at 1226½ N. Main Street, behind the church.  It was built in 1904 and owned by the St. Lawrence O’Toole Catholic Church.  The outside walls are still standing.

Resources: Historic plaque by Montana Historical Society; The Butte Irish, by David Emmons. Exterior photo by Linda Albright; interiors by Richard Gibson.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

58-60 West Galena Street (Paumie Block)

Built c. 1890
Present use: Uptown Post Office

Maria and Camille Paumie came to Montana from France in 1887. They constructed the west half of this building circa 1890, known as the Parisian House; its furnished rooms were rented out under various proprietors. The bottom floor was the Parisian Dye Works, a dye house and dry-cleaning business run by the Paumies who also lived in the building. Paumie’s was one of Montana's first steam dry-cleaners. Located on the fringe of Butte’s notorious red light district, much of Paumie’s cleaning business was with the prostitutes who worked and lived just to the east.

Cast iron storefront (1890)
The business expanded in 1898 with the addition of the east half of the building. Camille Paumie died in 1899 and Maria continued the business until the 1920s. Paumie’s Parisian Dye Works later had different owners who retained the Paumie name. The original three-story masonry building, with its fine cast-iron storefront (crafted by the Montana Iron Works, of Butte) and metal “eyebrow” lintels, appears much as it did in the late 1890s. A complex of interconnected extensions link this address with 110 S. Dakota.

In 1928, Ludger Michaud, Jr., was President of the Paumie Dye House and dry cleaning establishment. He (or perhaps his father, of the same name; the father died Feb. 24, 1917, age 64, and was a smelterman at the Parrot Smelter for much of his time in Butte) worked there as a cleaner in 1910.

Resources: Modified from historic plaque text by Montana Historical Society; City Directories.  Photos by Richard Gibson.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Mai Wah and Wah Chong Tai

By Richard I. Gibson

15-17-19-21 W. Mercury
Present Use: Museum
Web site
Architect: George de Snell (Mai Wah)

The Wah Chong Tai Company and Mai Wah Noodle Parlor buildings are the most important and least altered physical remnants of Butte's Chinese heritage.

About 1893, Chin Chun Hock, the founder of Seattle’s earliest and most successful Chinese mercantile business, the Wa Chong Company, opened a branch store in Butte on West Galena Street. Chin visited Butte in October 1898, and announced plans to construct a new building for the company on China Alley at Mercury Street.

By 1899, the company had moved into the new, two-story brick building at 15 West Mercury. Architecturally, the Wah Chong Tai (literally announcing beautiful old China) Company’s new building was no different than the other business blocks being constructed in other parts of Butte City. The mercantile operated from a large room on the first floor, stocking items imported from China to sell to Asians and to others. Merchandise included fine Chinese and Japanese porcelain, bulk containers of dried herbs and tonics, and string-tied packages of Chinese-style clothing.

An herbal store at the back of the mercantile was named “hung fuk hong” or “together happiness meeting place.” An open mezzanine around three sides of the mercantile provided additional display space and an area for two offices. A restaurant was located on the second floor. Restaurant customers, both Chinese and Euro-American, entered by a door on China Alley.

Just as rural general stores throughout the U.S. provided various services, the mercantile also did much more than just sell goods. Besides its obvious commercial activities, it was also the place to find lodging, social interaction, and job opportunities. The mercantile was a meeting place, a post office, and a bank. It also had political functions, providing translators and spokespersons who represented the Chinese within the larger society.

For several decades, the Wah Chong Tai Company remained a thriving mercantile. By 1931, ownership of the building and business had passed from control of the Seattle company and the real property had been divided into 1/20th shares under eight different owners, and the Wah Chong Tai Company was a partnership divided into 1/15th shares with five different owners. Three of the owners, Chin On, Chin Yee Fong (Albert Chinn), and Lou Dick You lived in Butte while Chin Quon Dai and Kong Sing Fong lived in China.

A "Report of the Partnership" filed with the District Court on the death of Chin On showed the company in sound financial condition at a time when many other Chinese businesses in Butte were being forced to close. The partnership listed assets of almost $10,000 -- three quarters of the amount was in cash. The report also verifies the Wah Chong Tai Company's function as a bank for local Chinese. It listed over $12,000 in a safe deposit box at the First National Bank being held in trust for 15 individuals.

In 1909, the Wah Chong Tai Company retained George DeSnell, a Butte architect, to design a new building to adjoin the mercantile. The two-story brick structure has two storefronts at street level separated by an entrance to the second story Mai Wah (meaning “beautiful and luxurious”) Noodle Parlor.

At least one of the storefronts was divided from front to back into a series of small stores accessed off an interior side aisle -- a small version of today’s shopping mall. An unusual feature of this building, but one that is common in Victoria, British Columbia's Chinatown, is a "cheater story," a floor sandwiched between the first and second stories. Divided into a number of small rooms and with only about six feet of headroom, it apparently accommodated lodgers.

By the mid-1940s, only a few Chinese families remained in Butte, among them the Chinn family who owned and lived in the Mai Wah Noodle Parlors and Wah Chong Tai Co. buildings. By 1949, William Chinn, Albert Chinn’s son, owned the building. He rented the building to Paul Eno who ran a fix-it shop and second-hand store from the ground level until his death in 1986.

Hal Waldrup, a friend of Eno, recognized the historical significance of the buildings and was crucial in organizing citizens to help preserve and restore the buildings. Waldrup arranged for many Chinese artifacts and photographs from the building to be transferred to the Montana Historical Society in Helena.

See also these Butte History blog posts

Modified from text by Richard Gibson on Mai Wah website, where more information and historic images can be found. Note that the historic plaque indicates that the Wah Chong Tai building was constructed in 1891; this is incorrect; it was planned in late 1898 and erected in 1899. Photo by Richard I. Gibson.

Uptown YMCA


By Tiffany Nitschke

405 W. Park (also 401-405-407 W. Park)
Architect: Floyd Hamill

The uptown YMCA is located at 405 West Park Street. The earliest attempts to establish a YMCA in Butte were made before the turn of the 20th Century. A fundraising campaign was initiated and within a few months enough money was raised to finance the construction of a six-story building.

Butte Miner, June 8, 1917
Ground was broken June 7, 1917 ( a day before the Granite Mountain Mine disaster) and the $350,000 building opened in 1919. The rectangular structure with a built-up flat roof has a granite-veneered foundation and is of solid masonry construction with brick siding. There are combination stone lintels and keystone with stone sills. Tuscan columns support a balustrade which fronts a window framed by a broken pediment over the main Park Street entrance. One- to three-story windows have a complete molding, while the one- to two-story windows are connected with a stone panel.

The architect for the building was Floyd Hamill of Butte, but the design and focus originated from an unnamed firm which designed and built YMCA buildings throughout the world for the Association. Contractors were the local firm of Nelson and Peterson. Floyd Hamill was a respected local architect, whose work in 1917 and 1918 included Deaconess Hospital, St. John the Evangelist and St. Anne's Catholic Churches, and a residence for the sisters of St. Joseph's parish.

The landmark YMCA building included a bowling alley, a temperance bar, dormitory rooms, a pool, a court carpeted running track, and a two-story gymnasium. The YMCA also included a library that was specially wired to accommodate a "moving motion picture machine" for use by mine rescue and first-aid personnel. Following early 20th Century conventions, boys and men were strictly segregated as the North Washington Street entry inscription, "Boys Entrance," demonstrates.

In 1986, a successful campaign resulted in the purchase of The Courtrooms, on the Flats, to which the YMCA moved. That location is now a private racquetball court. In 2005, the uptown YMCA was acquired by the Butte-Silver Bow Arts Foundation, but the expenses of repairs and heating bills were overwhelming, and the building was vacant for several years until 2013 when it was purchased by Peter and Stephanie Sorini of Butte, who plan to remodel it for lodgings, shops, and other diverse uses. News story

Resources: Historic plaque by Montana Historical Society; text modified from Butte CPR; photo (2004) by Richard Gibson.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Burton K. Wheeler House

1232 East Second Street
Built: c. 1905

Independently listed National Historic Landmark (one of only 26 in Montana), designated in 1976. This house, similar to many in Butte, is a National Historic Landmark—much greater significance than a National Register property—because of its association with Burton K. Wheeler. See the Definitions tab above for the differences between National Historic Landmarks and National Register listings.

This 1½-story, gable-roofed, brick and wood-shingle house was Wheeler's home from 1908 until he went to Washington to take his seat in the U.S. Senate in 1923. Wheeler bought this dwelling, which was situated in a miners' neighborhood, soon after opening his first law practice, and although he eventually earned sufficient money to move to a more expensive residential section, he preferred to remain here. "My choice . . . was worth extra votes every time I ran for office," he recalled later. "But in truth this was not my motive in refusing to move. I simply enjoyed associating with these hard-working, fun-loving Irish, Welsh, and Cornish families. There was no pretension and there was plenty of merriment."

The architect, builder, and date of construction of the house are unknown even to the architectural historian conducting the Montana State Historic Sites Survey, but the structure appears to have been erected not long before Wheeler's occupancy. There have been several subsequent owners, but the house has undergone no significant alterations. The residential area in which the dwelling is situated retains the appearance of an early 20th-century workingmen's neighborhood. Of varying style and construction, the houses are built just a few feet from the street and close together. Only a 3-foot-wide concrete walk separates the Wheeler House from the two frame residences that flank it. First-story exterior walls of the generally square-shaped structure are brick, and upper-level walls are frame and covered by wood shingles. The house faces north, has an east-west roof ridge, and rests on a stone foundation. A brick watertable consisting of three rows of stretchers passes around the front and both sides. Plank faciae grace the east and west eaves of the main roof, but rafters are exposed at the front and rear. A large, gabled dormer adorns each roof slope, and a single, brick exterior chimney stands at the rear of the house and pierces both the main roof and the dormer roof. Two recessed, one-bay-square porches one at the northeast corner (front) and one at the southeast corner (rear) are sheltered by roof overhangs. The concrete front porch, which is open, is accessible from the north end via three concrete steps. A concrete balustrade crosses the east side, and a shingled post on a brick pier supports the corner of the roof. The rear porch is frame-enclosed with a sidelighted door.

Fenestration is irregular, but the majority of the windows are 16-over-l, double-hung sash. The lower front facade is broken only by a rectangular triple window with a flat arch of radiating brick voussoirs and wood lugsill. The center window is stationary and consists of two horizontal rows of eight lights set above a large single pane; flanking windows are 16-over-l double-hung sash. Above, in the gabled dormer, is another triple window, which features three 16-over-l double-hung sashes. The rear dormer has a similar double window east of the chimney and a nine-light single window west of it. Window style and placement vary in the gable ends. Along the east wall of the lower level are two segmentally arched single windows, and on the west wall is a rectangular-shaped bay window. The single front door, which is placed in a segmentally arched opening in the east wall under the front porch, consists of two horizontal rows of four glass panes above a single wood panel. Above is a rectangular transom. The rear door is single and situated in the east wall under the rear porch. Also at the rear, a ground-level, double, plank, bulkhead door gives access to a half-basement.

In the small yard rear of the house is a one-story, gable-roofed, frame garage-carriage house of unknown construction date. It is wood-shingled and could date from late in the Wheeler occupancy. In any case, the structure is part of the nominated property.

There are two other extant Wheeler residences. One, in Washington, D.C., was Wheeler's home from 1950 until his death in 1975. The other, in Glacier National Park, is a summer house that remains in the Wheeler family but eventually is to become National Park Service property.

Biography of Burton K. Wheeler

Burton Kendall Wheeler was born February 27, 1882, in Hudson, Mass., to Asa L. and Mary T. Wheeler. Although his shoemaker father's income was small, the family lived fairly comfortably. Because he was an asthmatic child, Burton's parents encouraged his scholarly interests, and by the time he graduated from high school in 1900, he had decided to become a lawyer. Lacking the necessary funds, he worked as a stenographer in Boston for two years and saved his money. In 1902, he entered the University of Michigan Law School. Supporting himself by using his stenographic skills, waiting tables, and selling books door to door, Wheeler completed requirements for the LL.B in 1905. Shortly after his graduation in 1905, Wheeler decided that his best opportunities were in the West, and he traveled to several Western States searching for an older attorney who wanted a junior partner. While in Butte, Mont., he lost most of his money to card sharks, and financial necessity forced him to remain and practice law here. Soon he prospered, primarily because of his ability to win damage suits against railroads and mining companies.

Wheeler first turned his attention to politics in 1908 when he tried to help his law partner Matt Canning win the Democratic nomination for Silver Bow County prosecutor. Although Canning lost, Wheeler made a favorable impression, and in 1910 he was elected to the Montana House of Representatives on a slate endorsed by the Anaconda Copper Company, the dominant force in the State's political life.
Despite his freshman status, he became chairman of the judiciary committee. Refusing to bow to pressure from Anaconda, Wheeler tried to push a liberalized workmen's compensation law. Although he failed, he did get a loan shark bill passed which fixed the maximum interest rate, and a measure to ban the sale of prison-made goods as well. Wheeler most clearly showed his defiance of Anaconda in his leadership of the forces in the House that were trying to elect the company's enemy Thomas J. Walsh to the U.S. Senate. This fight, says historian Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., turned Wheeler into a "rough-and-ready alley fighter who had to learn to bite and kick and gouge in order to save his political life."

In 1912, thanks in large part to Wheeler, Walsh was finally elected to the U.S. Senate. Wheeler himself tried to win the Democratic nomination for Montana Attorney General, but bitterly opposed by Anaconda, he lost in the State convention by three votes. In 1913 on Walsh's recommendation, Wheeler was appointed U.S. District Attorney for Montana. His tenure in this office was largely uneventful until the U.S. entered the European War in April 1917. Montana had one of the worse outbreaks of anti-German and anti-radical hysteria in the country partly due to the Anaconda Copper Company, who hoped to use it to break the power of the State's labor unions. Despite demands that he make wholesale arrests, Wheeler refused. "He was assiduous in handling what he considered genuine sedition cases," says New York reporter Alden Whitman, "but equally diligent in refusing to prosecute what he regarded as unworthy ones." By 1918 he had become so controversial that he resigned because he feared he would ruin Senator Walsh's chances for reelection. Wheeler's experiences as U.S. Attorney made him determined to wrest control of the Democratic Party from Anaconda. In 1920 he won the party's gubernatorial nomination with the assistance of the Nonpartisan League on a platform of State hail insurance, State grain inspection, State-owned grain elevators and flour mills, increased workmen's benefits, the end of labor blacklisting, and guaranteed freedom of speech. In the campaign which followed, Anaconda Copper used all its power to defeat him, accusing him of being a Communist and claiming that his election would ruin the State's economy. Despite heroic campaigning on Wheeler's part in the face of serious threats against his life, he was decisively defeated. In 1922 depressed economic conditions enabled Wheeler to handily win election to the U.S. Senate on a platform of aid to agriculture, the right of labor to organize, and passage of the soldiers' bonus. Despite his freshman status, he wasted little time before making himself well known. Assigned to the Interstate and Foreign Commerce Committee, he challenged the reelection of Albert B. Cummins as chairman. With the aid of progressive Republicans, Democrat Ellison D. "Cotton Ed" Smith was selected to replace him — one of the few times in the history of Congress when an important chairmanship has been held by the minority party.

Wheeler first attracted national attention in February 1924, when he introduced a resolution to investigate Attorney General Harry M. Daugherty for his failure to prosecute law violators, particularly those in the Teapot Dome scandal being uncovered by his friend and colleague Senator Walsh. Wheeler produced a number of sensational witnesses like the ex-wife of Daugherty crony Jess Smith, and within 2 weeks, President Coolidge asked for the Attorney General's resignation. Before quitting, however, Daugherty started proceedings which eventually led to Wheeler's indictment for improperly using his influence to get oil leases for a law client. At his trial, it soon became apparent that the charges were patently political, and the jury quickly returned a verdict of not guilty.

Wheeler refused to support Democratic Presidential candidate John W. Davis in 1924 because of his Wall Street connections. Bolting the party, the Montanan ran for Vice President on the Progressive Party ticket with Robert M. LaFollette. Wheeler made speeches all over the country, and although defeated, he and LaFollette made the best popular showing of any third-party ticket prior to the election of 1968. Returning to the Democratic fold, he enthusiastically supported Alfred E. Smith in 1928.

In 1932 Wheeler was one of the first nationally prominent Democrats to support Franklin D. Roosevelt for the party's nomination. After 1933, however, Wheeler, who was personally close to Huey Long, came to believe that Roosevelt was too conservative. In 1935 the Montanan led the fight in the Senate for the Holding Company Act and was the foremost proponent of the controversial "death sentence" provision which required the breaking up of large utility companies within a specified period of time. In 1937 Wheeler led the successful fight against Roosevelt's "court packing" scheme. Although he had been critical of the Supreme Court himself, Wheeler opposed Roosevelt's plan, says his biographer Richard T. Ruetten, because of his "fear of centralized, concentrated power, whether it be public or private." At any rate, he organized the plan's opponents, kept reactionaries in the background, and tried to give his group, says historian James T. Patterson, "the air of unselfish crusaders waging a hold war against totalitarianism." Eventually Wheeler's skillful leadership-combined with the untimely death of Joseph T. Robinson, the leading Congressional proponent of F.D.R.'s Court plan, and a sudden shift to support of the New Deal on the part of the Court, forced Roosevelt to back down after suffering his first major legislative defeat.

In the late 1930 s and early 1940s Wheeler became one of the bitterest critics of Roosevelt's foreign policies, which the Senator believed were calculated to get the Nation into war. At the 1940 Democratic Convention he helped force the inclusion of a peace plank in the Party platform. He particularly aroused the ire of Roosevelt in 1941 when he attacked the Lend Lease bill as the "New Deal's triple-A foreign policy," which, he said, would "plow under every fourth American boy." According to his biographer Richard T. Ruetten, Wheeler was not an isolationist but a noninterventionist who believed the country should go to war only if its "interests seemed immediately threatened." Accordingly, he supported war after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. Although he became somewhat more conservative after the Court fight, Wheeler continued to support most New Deal domestic legislation and personally secured the enactment of a number of important measures. In 1938 he helped author the law which gave the Federal Trade Commission authority to regulate drug advertising, and in 1939 he was responsible for the Railroad Unemployment Insurance Act. In 1940 he played a significant role in the passage of the Wheeler-Lea Transportation Act which coordinated the regulation of all forms of transportation under the auspices of the Interstate Commerce Commission. In 1946, largely because of his opposition to Roosevelt and Truman's foreign policy, he was defeated for reelection in the Montana Democratic primary. After leaving the Senate in 1947, Wheeler remained in Washington and practiced law with one of his sons. Active until the day of his death, he suffered a fatal stroke in Washington, DC, on January 6, 1975, at the age of 92.

Text modified from George R. Adams and Ralph Christian, February, 1976, National Register of Historic Places Inventory Nomination: Burton K. Wheeler House (National Park Service), based largely on Wheeler's autobiography, Yankee from the West. House photo from Wikipedia, by user Robstutz licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. Wheeler photo from U.S. Congress, public domain. 

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Twin Sisters (Davis Homes, 845-855 West Granite)

855 (left) and 845 (right) West Granite St.

Andrew Jackson Davis Home (845 West Granite)
Built: 1890-91

The builder of this residence was the second of three Butte men of the same name. The elder A. J. Davis (1819-1890) was said to have been Butte’s first millionaire and founded the predecessor to the First National Bank of Butte in 1877. His nephew Andy, the second A. J. Davis (1863-1941), started with the bank in 1882, became president in 1890, and inherited his uncle’s fortune. Andy and his brother, John E. Davis, built these twin homes in 1891. Andy’s son, the third and youngest A. J. Davis, later lived at 805 W. Broadway. The twin residences share a sidewalk entry and a roof connecting the side porches. These common features were added some time after the original construction. Hardwood floors with inlaid border designs grace four rooms of this home and one room of its twin. A portion of this residence’s third floor was finished to serve as maids’ quarters. The elaborate two-story brick carriage house to the east features an elevator used to move carriages and sleighs to and from second-floor storage, and a groomsman’s apartment spans the front of its upper floor.

Resources: Historical plaque by Montana Historical Society. Photo by Richard I. Gibson.

John E. Davis Home (855 West Granite)
Built: 1890-91

A myriad of Victorian era details makes this splendid residence and its next-door neighbor, built by brothers John E. and A. J. Davis, true period showcases. Known as the "Twin Sisters," these mirror-image homes were constructed in 1891 for the handsome sum of $7,000 each. Steeply pitched roofs with front-facing gables, bay windows, and asymmetrical facades are hallmarks of the Queen Anne style. Among the many decorative elements are fish-scale shingles, elaborate bargeboards on the gable ends, and windows framed in small square lights. Turned posts and balustrades, delicate lattice-like bases, and scrolled brackets which grace the porches are fine examples of Eastlake detailing. Matching stained glass windows on the opposing sides of each home were crafted in a Tiffany glass shop once located in Butte. The original owner, grocer and hardware merchant John Davis, was an amateur painter and taxidermist who filled the home with the fruit of his talents. Following John's untimely death in 1913, his widow lived in the home until the 1940s.

Resources: Historical plaque by Montana Historical Society. Photo by Richard I. Gibson.