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Uptown Butte, Montana

An arts scene now thrives where copper miners once tread.

artist working in studio in Uptown Butte, Mont., image
Photo caption
Chalk talks in an artist's studio in Uptown Butte.

  • 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,
  • 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,
  • 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,
  • 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,
  • Deep-fried pork sandwiches? They're a Butte thing. Pork Chop John's does brisk business. 8 W. Mercury St., 782-0812,

Photography by Andrew Geiger

This article was first published in July 2007. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.