About 20 years ago a friend mentioned he had been to Philipsburg, MT and how cool it was. It took awhile, but our travels finally took us here. Derek and I spent a day off walking around the tiny town and drinking at the brewery. Just up the highway, the bigger town of Anaconda is a gem of old historic buildings and houses.
Silver mines in the vicinity of Philipsburg were first discovered in 1864. Word of the discoveries got out and a rush to the area occurred the following year. Philipsburg was officially registered as a town in 1867. The town was growing at such an unbelievable rate that it was reported in an August edition of the Montana Post that Philipsburg was “scarcely thirty days old” but growing at a “rate of one house a day.” By December of the same year, Philipsburg had a population of about 1500 people.” Today it attracts tourists to it’s quaint downtown.
The town sprang up when the giant Anaconda Copper Mining Company of Butte needed a smelter for its vast amounts of copper ore. Anaconda was founded by Marcus Daly, one of the Copper Kings, who financed the construction of the Anaconda smelter on nearby Warm Springs Creek to process copper ore from the Butte mines. The smelter closed in 1980 but the town still lives on. We walked around a bit to check out some of the architecture and history. Some highlights:
We started at Kennedy Commons, a big grassy center downtown. In 1966 the City of Anaconda renamed their downtown park to Kennedy Commons, in honor of the late President John F. Kennedy. The park has a beautiful war memorial, art statues, benches, and even turns into an ice skating rink in the winter!
The Washoe Theatre was the last theater constructed in the United States in the Nuevo Deco style. The theater was designed in 1930 and almost entirely finished by 1931, but its opening was delayed until 1936 because of the Great Depression. The first movie to play in the Washoe was a Western, The Texas Rangers starring Fred MacMurray as a Texas Ranger. The Washoe still operates as a movie theater today.
Hearst Free Library
The Hearst Free Library, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Buildings, was donated to the city of Anaconda by Phoebe Hearst, whose husband invested with Marcus Daly in the Montana copper industry. The library opened it’s doors in 1898 and still looks grand to this day.
Anaconda City Hall
Marcus Daly dreamed of making Anaconda the state capital and spared no expense to make its public buildings spectacular. The Anaconda City Hall was built in 1895 of local materials — pressed brick and Anaconda granite,
with Anaconda copper trim. The building was used until 1976, when the city and county governments consolidated and moved to the County Courthouse. The old City Hall Center now houses an art gallery, crafts center, a retail shop and the Historical Society.
Anaconda-Deer Lodge County Co
Without a doubt, the biggest building is the historic courthouse. Originally built in 1898 and recently renovated, it is quite grand. The work kicked off with a $1.7 million restoration of the building’s lantern tower, which was dismantled in July 2010. One-thousand pound casts of sandstone and fiberglass were made from the tower’s decorative panels, which were then hoisted back in place beneath the century-old copper dome, in accordance with historic preservation guidelines. Sandstone from the original panels was crushed and reused in the new casts and windows were installed in the lantern tower, to keep water and pigeons out.
It’s supposed to rain all night and tomorrow so it looks like we’ll be taking the day off from riding. Hopefully we’ll be back out there shortly.