In the Christmas edition of the 1905 Butte Evening News, Thomas F. Rooney wrote an article titled “Butte, The Cosmopolitan, the Strenuous, the Unique, the Prosperous.” He epitomized Butte as a city unlike any other, “Butte is not described; Butte defies analysis. One must see it to appreciate it; one must live in it to know it; for it has the face of an ogre and a heart of gold.”
Butte was a melting pot of ethnicities and culture that shape it to this day. From all corners of the world, immigrants came to this tough mining town, created distinct neighborhoods, and brought with them the cultural heritage of their native countries of Ireland, Wales, China, Croatia, Italy, Serbia, Lebanon, England, Canada, and Finland, to name just a few.
The men and women of Butte worked strenuously to establish the city, to bring it beyond the realm of a mere mining camp, and to survive during fluctuating economic times. Men endured back-breaking work to unearth the ore that lay beneath the surface of the steep terrain, and families learned to accept the fact that their loved ones risked their lives daily for the want of that ore.
The city is unique in the Rocky Mountain West in myriad ways, from its industrial landscape to its large mix of ethnicities. Butte’s very placement near the crest of the Continental Divide is unique. The sheer elevation of nearly 6,000 feet makes the journey to the city a challenge. The terrain of the city is a dichotomy between “the flats,” a stretch of even terrain that spreads south, and Uptown Butte, the face of the city that saw the majority of growth in the late 1800s and early 1900s.
Today, Butte’s face tells a story without words. The city is much brighter than it was in the past; greenery gives it a healthy look, and mining plays a lesser role than it once did. The massive headframes stand testament to the sheer determination that was required to erect them, let alone descend a mile deep into the ground. These headframes are symbolic of Butte’s fortitude, of people whose “can do” attitude has never failed to meet a major challenge head on. Butte has experienced remarkable prosperity and has found comfort in the richness of its heritage and the strength of its citizens.
— Excerpted from Image of America, Butte by Ellen Crain and Lee Whitney
Butte lies at the crossroads of Montana’s two Interstates, 15 & 90, which makes getting here easy and safe. Another route into the city is Montana Highway 2, coming from the West (via Whitehall). San Francisco’s Lombard St. has nothing on this road, with its hairpin twists and turns, and a breathtaking sight once the city of Butte comes into view on the way down.
The center of Butte, back in our mining heyday, was the corner of Park and Main Streets, from where all addresses begin. Park and Main is still considered the hub of Historic Uptown Butte, though the layout of the city has changed substantially, meaning it’s no longer the geographical center of town.
In most cities, what residents call Downtown is the historic, walkable, shopping, eating and having-a-great-time part of town. In Butte, it’s known as Uptown (you’ll see why).
Thirsty? Check out one of Butte’s most impressive examples of transforming a historic, mostly unused building into something magical. Metals Sports Bar and Grill, at the corner of Park and Main Streets, is located in the old Metals Bank Building, designed by the renowned late architect Cass Gilbert, who also envisioned Chicago’s majestic Woolworth Building. Ice cold beer, and every game imaginable on 31 TV’s make this the perfect stop for everyone from sports fans to architecture buffs to kids!
For a completely different, though every bit as fun, experience, Butte’s Headframe Spirits, opened in 2012 and already taking the craft spirits world by storm, is open daily until 8pm, serving delicious, inventive cocktails, all made from their own popular products. Tasting room tours are also available.
For an authentic taste of Butte, make sure to stop at Muzz and Stan’s Freeway Tavern on South Montana for a delicious, hand-breaded pork chop sandwich, commonly known around here as a ‘Wop Chop’.
And, a visit to The Mining City wouldn’t be complete without a hot homemade pasty (pronounced pass-tee), covered in brown gravy, and served with a side of coleslaw. The pasty was a staple in miners’ lunchboxes, and which local pasty-maker is the best these days will be challenged from every corner of town, so ask around for a recommendation.