Thursday, April 18, 2013

Quartz Street Fire Station

17 West Quartz
Built: 1900
Web Site (BSB Public Archives)

A catastrophic fire in 1879 destroyed all evidence of Butte’s first commercial district. Wooden buildings were subsequently outlawed on Main Street, but even so, fire has altered the commercial landscape in every decade from 1879 to the present. This indispensable community fire hall, Butte’s second, completed in 1900, served as the Butte headquarters until the 1970s. The station, with its three garage bays, housed the fire chief and twenty-two men. A corrugated metal tower above the roof at the rear was used for hanging hoses.

Since 1981 the building has housed the Butte-Silver Bow Public Archives. Major renovation of the interior in 2009-10 and addition of a state-of-the-art archival vault to the east made the Archives among the finest in the United States, venue for more than 4,000 visitors per year researching their ancestors and other aspects of Butte history.

The fire station has been called one of the most haunted buildings in Butte. Before the 2010 renovation, the fire bells—disconnected for decades—could be heard to ring in the basement.

Text modified from historic plaque by Montana Historical Society. Additional references: The Haunting of Butte's Quartz Street Fire Station, by Ellen Baumler, in Montana, The Magazine of Western History, Vol 52, No 1, Spring 2002; and Souvenir history of the Butte Fire Department, by Peter Sanger, Chief Engineer, November 1901 (source of historic photo, scanned by Butte Public Library). Modern photo (2008) by Richard Gibson.

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