08 April 2010

Butte's "exclusive" Silver Bow Club

I recently had the privilege of meeting with U.S. Senator John Tester at his field office in the Silver Bow Club building here in Butte, Montana. Senator Tester is uniquely Montanan. Raised on a farm (he still owns & operates it) homesteaded by his grandparents, he is dedicated to environmental conservation, working across party lines, and veterans' issues. A good man whom I was proud to support for election in 2006, and whom I hope long serves We The People.

But this story is about the building that I visited for the first time, just one of many listed sites in America's largest U.S. Historic Landmark District:

 Next to the Butte-Silver Bow Courthouse, the Silver Bow Club was completed in 1907 for Butte, America's, business elites. Founded by "Copper King" W. A. Clark, members included other capitalist robber barons such as J. P. Morgan (note the third floor--I'll get to that):

Like many of Butte's finer buildings of this era, the granite steps were probably quarried locally, perhaps at the Welch Quarry:

I wonder what these iron hooks in the steps were for?:

Entering the building, the opulent reception area includes a grand fireplace (with Butte's "Silver Bow" symbol) and lots of dark wood:

The wall panel frescoes depict Medieval English archers in various partying and hunting scenes:

The orignal robber baron members must have thought themselves heirs to the "sporting life" of the British gentry. Reminiscent of the recent strip-club party and family values of the Republican Party, the third floor was reserved for mistresses of the club's members.

In a lovely twist of fate, following the economic collapse of the 1930s, the Silver Bow Club became for many years the headquarters of the Butte Miners Union. Today, it houses the field office for Senators Tester and several local businesses and not-for-profits.

Butte Historic Tours
Patty Dean, "Silver Bow Club of Butte"


Richard Gibson said...

Nice pics and commentary - though I'm amazed you'd never been in there! The hooks in the granite steps were there to hold down the red carpet. Next time you go in, study the designs in the south entry - they are made of beaten copper, not quite copper 'leaf', but (I'm told) a difficult and expensive art form.

The original 1906 elevator is haunted.

Don't let anyone tell you Mark Twain was in this building - he was in Butte in 1895, at the OTHER Silver Bow club, in the building that stood where the parking lot at Granite and Hamilton Streets is today.

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