World of Mining Museum
Photo courtesy: World of Mining Museum
Lady of the Rockies
Photo courtesy: Our Ladies of the Rockies Tour
A Trolley Ride
Photo courtesy: Butte Chamber
Photo courtesy: John Ansotegui
Historic Uptown Butte
Photo courtesy: John Ansotegui
Guarding Butte's northwest corner is the prominent conical hill, Big Butte, from which the city took its name. The community itself is located virtually on the Continental Divide, surrounded by mountains, and lies on some of the world's richest mineral reserves.
Gold miners arrived in Butte in 1864 with picks, shovels and gold pans. By 1873 most placer mines had played out. Then in 1875, rich silver ore was found, infusing new life in Butte. In 1876, Daly purchased the "Alice" silver mine. Daly, by 1880, was a partner in the "Anaconda," staked in October 1875. At depth its silver ore ran thin, but copper ore increased. Copper had little value then and Daly's profits dwindled. Fortunately, Edison had just perfected his light bulb and he had shown that electricity could be sent through copper wire to illuminate entire cities. Copper began to come into demand and Daly became the head of one of the world's most powerful monopolies, the Anaconda Copper Mining Company.
By 1900, the Butte Hill and its huge copper deposits were known as "the richest hill on earth." In fact, at the turn of the century, Butte was one of the largest cities west of the Mississippi. After the worldwide slump in the copper market mining operations shut down in 1983, Butte citizens bounced back with a "can do" attitude. Mining operations resumed in the East Pit in 1986. Today, Butte is a city in transition to a more diversified economy, including energy research, medicine, tourism, environmental technology and manufacturing of high-purity silicon and silane gas.
No matter what your interests are, you'll find just the right place to see! Butte has a wonderful town history. Because the town was such a booming metropolis in its early days, much of that mining flavor is still prevalent as is the pride of the people who live there. Butte has often been referred to as "the richest hill on earth," and you'll see that it's not only rich in material wealth, but in history as well.
The people who built Butte were both native and foreign born. Most of the latter came from Ireland, Cornwall and Wales. But immigrants came to Butte from all European nations, Canada, Mexico and China as well. Many of these arrivals lived in their own neighborhoods with special holidays and distinctive cooking. Although these communities have all but disappeared, some groups still organize events where traditional foods are served with traditional music. But on St. Patrick's Day, nearly everyone claims to be Irish!
Butte's colorful history can also be seen in its preserved Victorian uptown business district and stately mansions. Old No. 1 Trolley, a replica of the cars used for Butte's electric trolley system, tours historic sites in the summer months. Visit Copper King Mansion, a designated National Historic Place. The mansion is a monument to the wealthy lifestyle of the last century. You'll enjoy the exquisite architectural detail and 32 rooms of antiques. Arts Chateau, a turn of the century mansion also on the National Historic Register, features changing art exhibits, marvelous collections and elegant architecture.
Other historic points of interest include The Mai Wah, a historic building in the heart of Butte's old Chinatown that houses displays and artifacts relating the story of Chinese miners. Also visit Dumas Victorian Brothel Museum for open for guided tours, ongoing art shows and displays.
Granite Mountain Mine Memorial offers the visitor a stunning panoramic view of Butte and the nearby mountains. Mineral Museum includes a fascinating collection that holds 1,500 specimens. World Museum of Mining Hell Roarin' Gulch is 22 acres of outdoor and indoor displays take you back 100 years-fascinating for the whole family and one of Butte's most popular attractions. The Berkeley Pit has a viewing stand allows visitors to fully appreciate the size of this former truck-operated open pit copper mine.
Activities and guided services for this area include ranch vacations and activities, natural hot springs, hiking, boating, resort cabins, river floats, hunting, fishing, horseback rides, golf, cross-country and downhill skiing and snowmobiling. Take the tour bus for a close-up view of the 90-foot Our Lady of the Rockies statue that looks down on Butte from the Continental Divide and visit the nearby Sheepshead Mountain Recreation Area, Maney Lake, Boulder Hot Springs, and Elkhorn State Park.
The National Register of Historic Places, the nation's list of heritage properties worthy of preservation, includes the Butte Historic District. Butte, Walkerville, and Anaconda, and the Butte, Anaconda Pacific Railway together make up the Butte-Anaconda National Historic Landmark. As you explore Butte, look for interpretive markers to learn more about the community's history and architecture.