As Bob and I drove into Butte, we saw that all the newer houses and businesses and most of the activity were down in "The Flats." But we were interested in "Uptown," the historic section built on a steep hill. The hill is known as "the richest hill on earth" because it's full of minerals and riddled with mines--some gold and silver, but mostly copper. Click here to read a short version of Butte's wild history.
We headed uphill on Montana Street, looking for Granite Street where our grandparents' apartment had stood. Just as we approached the corner of Granite, church bells rang out. We both said, "Oh!" and turned to look at each other and smile. Those bells, from multiple churches, had rung throughout every day of our summer visits. I hadn't remembered that, but when I heard them there at the corner of Granite, memories flooded back.
We turned onto Granite, not sure what we'd find. Butte suffered numerous fires throughout uptown during the 1970's. Most were arson for the insurance money, or so everybody says. We'd heard that our grandparents' building was one of those that had burned.
In 1879, a fire destroyed the entire business district. Following this disaster, the city council passed a law requiring all uptown buildings be built of brick or stone. That's why Butte has so many still-standing historic buildings. But, ironically, there are now many more-recently-generated vacant lots caused by (arson) fire.
One of the first things we found on Broadway was our Cousin Jack Sullivan's electrical shop. It was full of odds and ends and he always welcomed us in to hang around and get in the way. And we always got to choose one gift. One time I got a little copper tee-pee and John got a rabbit's foot. Bob always chose old electrical parts.
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Disappointing after reading his other work, especially "Whistling Season," which is incredible. This one is just pretty good. He paints a vivid picture of Butte, Montana and the copper mining culture. But characters and especially plot are just a framework for talking about Butte.