Posted by: acooksca | 08/26/2016

In Montana’s most authentic town

Butte Historic Uptown 3

Historic Uptown, Butte

“I never send visitors to Butte…there just isn’t anything there ” says Tad, our bartender at a craft distillery in Missoula, Montana. And yet I had just read an article printed in Sunset Magazine with the title “Montana day trip: Butte, Keep it real in Montana’s most authentic town”. Tad went on to qualify his statement. “No good food or bars, except maybe the one in that old hotel. Just history.”

We land in Butte on a warm summer morning ready for history. Mining history. Butte is a boom-and-bust, one-industry town. It has experienced the ups and downs of market volatility, technology advancements and thousands of lives lost in mining disasters. It also was one of the first towns to embrace unionization… not only in the mines but among the bakers, cabdrivers, laundry woman and others.

Butte Mining Museum- 5

at the World Mining Museum

We learn that 1900-1920 saw Butte earn the title of “richest hill on Earth” as copper mines spewed out millions of tons of ore. During those years Butte supplied around 1/3 of the copper for the United States. The demand for copper for electric wires was exploding. During World War I copper was used in every single rifle bullet.

Butte today is quite different. While the bulk of the historic buildings built during the heyday of Butte remain (and many have been or are in the process of being nicely refurbished), numerous buildings are either fully or partially empty. The compact “Uptown”, family-owned World Museum of Mining and elegant copper king mansions draw us with their gritty authenticity.

Butte Historic uptown 6

Harleys gather for Evel Knievel Days

Earlier in the day there is time to stroll the modest Saturday farmer’s and artist’s market along Broadway. In the afternoon we rub elbows with the Harley riding crowd at the town’s big event of the summer, a street fair in honor native son Evel Knievel. There are three brewpubs in town but we find only one open so order an IPA and basket of popcorn at Quarry Brewing (“we dig beer”). From the brewery’s back alley deck we look over quiet Uptown and speculate that Butte will probably remain Montana’s most authentic town for some time.

Sunset Magazine article about a day trip to Butte:




  1. Great article Karen! It sounds like a living, breathing Bodie, CA. With IPA!

    • Not a bad comparison. Thank goodness for the IPA.

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