News Column

Along the Great Divide, profiles of people, places: Butte's architectural history

May 19, 2014

By Renata Birkenbuel, The Montana Standard, Butte

May 19--A new exhibit at the Clark Chateau pieces together Butte's rich architectural history in a variety of media: quilting, photography, watercolors and pencil drawings.

Scattered throughout the chateau, the four mini-exhibits, "Celebrating Butte's Architectural History," highlight the never-ending fascination with classic Butte architecture.

"Architecture lends itself to being adapted by other media," said Kim Kohn, Butte-Silver Bow Archives technician.

Architecture as a recurring theme remains a rock-solid way to attract professional and amateur historians to relive Butte's heyday -- when luxuriant craftsmanship of a building was as important as a building's practical use.

Friends of the late Paul Anderson, a well-regarded Montana mining history photographer who once lived in Butte, revived his comprehensive collection of photos depicting familiar local buildings and scenes.

Most of his work originates from the 1970s and 1980s, so viewers may recognize buildings that have since been demolished.

"His friends wanted to honor his great photographic abilities," said Mitzi Rossillon, chateau interim manager. Friends who raised money to have Anderson's photos framed and prepped for the exhibit include Elaine Howard of Butte and Brian Shovers of Helena.

Anderson's subjects include the Creamery Cafe (1976); "Live Storage," a 1993 ghost sign Rossillon said was Uptown and doesn't exist anymore; Montana Theater (1988); and a waste dump shot contrasted with colorful clothes hanging on a line (1977).

Anderson, who died in 2013, served as a consultant on many Montana Department of State Lands documentaries on abandoned mines. Some of his Montana photographs are housed in the Library of Congress.

"His name is on everything -- every mining history," said Rossillon, who should know: she's an architecture and history consultant on the side.

A quilt exhibit fills a second-story room in the chateau: four stunning, unique quilts that tell the story of Butte's architecture.

The Butte Heritage Quilt, made in 1978, languishes on a bed. It includes quilters Mindy Quivik and Kathy Driscoll, Carolyn Smithson and Kathleen McBride. Quivik stitched a homespun Uptown cobblestone street and Driscoll created a recognizable Columbia Gardens (1977). As in any quilt worth its stitch, each square tells an individual story that pops with life.

"A lot of people associated with the Butte Arts Foundation helped build the Heritage quilt," said Rossillon, adding that it's been stored at a private residence until now.

Another traditional quilt, "Treasures of Anaconda," was created by the Mountain Village Quilt Guild in 2003. It features some of Anaconda's iconic buildings and scenes.

Two other quilts are more understated and symbolic; one depicts copper ceiling tiles in various designs and the other subtly represents stone tiles visible around Uptown.

Two other rooms feature flat-art watercolors and pencil drawings of the Clark Chateau and other Butte landmarks, such as artist Jeanette Barnes' muted watercolor, a corner perspective of the O'Rourke Building. One small room is devoted strictly to the Chateau drawings and paintings.

"The architecture demonstrates how people appreciate it," said Rossillon.

Reach Birkenbuel at or 406-496-5512.


(c)2014 The Montana Standard (Butte, Mont.)

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Source: Montana Standard (Butte)

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