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Butte, Montana : Introduction

"Uptown" Butte
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Butte, Montana, is a town full of history. Few other towns anywhere in the US can claim such a spectacular boom and then bust as Butte can. During Butte’s prime, back in the late 1910’s and early 1920’s, the population of Butte was nearly 100,000 people. Today, due to the decline of the mining industry and other resource extraction industries, the population of Silver Bow County is only about 34,000 people. And, if this staggering reduction in population isn’t enough, Butte, due to its mining past, is unlucky enough to now sit in the largest Superfund Cleanup Site in the United States – the legacy of more than 100 years of mining that paid scant attention to environmental concerns during the time.

One would think from the above paragraph that Butte is now nothing but a bunch of empty buildings and dirty streets that is surrounded by an environmental nightmare of unequaled proportions. Yet, Butte is far from that. In fact, considering how far and how fast Butte fell following the decline of the mining industry; it is quite amazing how far Butte has come in rebuilding its downtown, restoring its environment, and in general transforming itself from a resource extraction town to a town built on other industries.

Entrance to the Berkeley Pit in Butte
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Butte also has something few other cities can claim – a rich and incredible history. Visiting Butte, even today, one can literally step back into time. Butte is also one of only two cities to be recognized as a National Historic Landmark (the other is Lowell, MA) – with more than 4000 historic buildings of one kind or another. Butte is literally teeming full of historic buildings – and makes other “restored” historic towns seem rather lame in comparison. And if all the historical buildings and “ghost signs” aren’t enough, there is always the every present old mining rigs (over 40 of them dot the sky in Butte) to help remind visitors what built Butte into the town that it is today.

For this reason, visitors to Montana should stop by and check out the town. Butte is a unique city that is well worth spending time to poke around in.

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