An arts scene now thrives where copper miners once tread.
- The West is littered with flash-in-the-pan gold towns that fizzled as soon as the color ran out. And then there's Butte, a city built on copper. The "Richest Hill on Earth" spawned mansions and gambling halls, millionaires and hooligans. By 1910—the year a Butte madam forcefully persuaded Carrie Nation to give up the temperance business—the town was a thriving center of opportunism. Uptown Butte, 26 blocks pressed hard against an abandoned open-pit mine, still bristles with "gallows frames" that lowered miners into the tunnels below. But a recent arts revival has brought Uptown a new sort of wealth. Area code is 406.
- Mining baron William A. Clark flaunted his fortune through fresco ceilings and hand-carved wooden staircases in his 34-room Copper King Mansion. Open for tours and overnight stays. 219 W. Granite St., 782-7580, www.thecopperkingmansion.com .
- Artists in studios ply oils, pastels, and clay while you watch—and shop—in the Museum of Fine Arts Butte. 405 W. Park St., 723-7600, www.bsbarts.org .
- In the heart of Butte's historic red-light district, Espresso House attracts lovers of both art and caffeine. 124 S. Main St., 491-4476.
- Find Burma Shave signs, vintage cars, and rare "petroliana" at the Piccadilly Museum of Transportation Memorabilia and Advertising Art. 20 W. Broadway, 723-3034, www.piccadillymuseum.com .
- Old Butte Historical Adventures (117 N. Main St., 498-3424) offers walking tours. Sights include the Old Jail, with a 1956 roster signed by Butte native Robert "Evel" Knievel. His crime: reckless driving.
- Anybody's short list of Montana's best eateries should include the Uptown Café. Beef Wellington, blackened halibut, and cioppino. 47 E. Broadway, 723-4735, www.uptowncafe.com .
- Deep-fried pork sandwiches? They're a Butte thing. Pork Chop John's does brisk business. 8 W. Mercury St., 782-0812, www.porkchopjohns.com .
Photography by Andrew Geiger
This article was first published in July 2007. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.