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The original item was published from 3/23/2015 8:48:17 AM to 4/5/2015 12:10:01 AM.

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Butte-Silver Bow

Posted on: March 23, 2015

[ARCHIVED] Vacant Uptown buildings to get splash of the past

Storefront windows in many of Uptown’s vacant buildings will soon tell stories through giant, rarely viewed photographs of Butte’s past.

The Butte Storefront Gallery Project will include 30 to 40 photos, including pictures of the old Anaconda Road, presidential visits, the Leonard Mine headframe tumbling down in a cloud of smoke, and Uptown streets as they looked before fires wiped out several buildings in one swoop.

At 6 feet high and 9 feet wide, the images will be large enough to view clearly while driving by and give a new, street-level look to empty buildings that leave impressions of a shabby, neglected place.

“Making the appearance not look vacant is huge in the perception of the whole area,” said Irene Scheidecker, a technician at the Butte-Silver Bow Public Archives.

The project has been a year in the making and includes input and collaboration from Butte-Silver Bow staff, Butte Citizens for Preservation and Revitalization (or CPR), and Friends of the Archives, a nonprofit group that raises money for the Archives.

Julia Crain, a special projects planner for the county, applied for and received a $4,745 Montana Historic Preservation Grant for the project. Friends of the Archives gave $2,000, and CPR added $1,500.

Many photos were selected from collections at the Archives and the World Museum of Mining.

“The photographs selected really are going to illustrate a side of Butte that maybe many people don’t see very frequently,” said Crain, who researched many of them. “They are some of the more unique elements that make Butte such a fascinating place.”

One picture shows a falling Leonard headframe -- half of it engulfed in smoke -- after explosives were used to bring it down in 1973. It and the houses and streets of Meaderville were cleared out to make room for open pit mining.

“That was the only headframe that came down this way,” Scheidecker said. “Many of the headframes were dismantled and repurposed elsewhere, but this one was blasted down. The steelworkers and ironmen who worked on the headframes … vowed to never let another headframe come down like that.”

CPR members came up with the project idea as a way to honor the late Denny Dutton, who moved to Butte in 1999 and was captivated by its history and people. He served as a guide on Butte’s tourist trolley and co-founded Butte’s first walking tour company, Old Butte Historical Adventures, among other things.

CPR set up a memorial fund in Dutton’s name after he died on New Year’s Eve in 2012, and some of that money will be used for the project.

“Denny Dutton was all about improving the appearance of Uptown Butte -- painting cornices, making things look better, cleaning things up,” Scheidecker said. “We came up with this idea to just make vacant buildings look better by putting something in their windows.”

Friends of the Archives offered their help, and so did Butte-Silver Bow through its historic preservation officer at the time, Jim Jarvis. Crain took the lead for the county.

The photographs will be imposed onto three-section panels that are easy to place, take down and move. The photos will be fade-resistant, but if they do fade, they can be re-imposed easily without replacing the panel material.

Each panel will cost roughly $300 and be topped with images of stained-glass designs found on the historic dome of the Butte-Silver Bow Courthouse. They should start going up sometime in May.

Crain said numerous vacant buildings have been identified as ideal for displaying the photos, and the owners of some have given permission to use their storefronts. They will be concentrated along Broadway, Park and Main streets -- what Crain called the “epicenter of tourism.”

“They are the pathways people walk when they visit the festivals, the way they typically travel,” she said. “They will be strategically placed to create a greater experience.”

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