Butte, MT, USA
Living History in Butte: My Favorite Forgotten Montana Boom-Gone-Bust TownEvel Knieval's childhood playground, Butte Montana is rough and tumble Wild West frontier city through and through. Located in the Silver Bow Creek, the city was put on the map as a mining boomtown in the late 19th century and lays claim to be the “Richest Hill On Earth” thanks to the profitable minerals extracted underground. During its heyday, Butte grew into a thriving city and is now home to the second largest national historic district after New Orleans.
On a visit you don’t want to miss an Underground Walking Tour. A highlight stop is the the Roaring 20’s Rookwood Speakeasy in the basement of the former Rockwood Hotel. Inside, a musty smell adrifts and you can imagine the room in its heyday in the 20’s with jazz, flappers and gambling.
With such an extensive mining history, a trip to Butte should also include a trip to the World Museum of Mining, which is built on actual mine yard: The Orphan Girl. The tour also lets you peep into a shaft station, used to bring miners up and down to the veins below the city of Butte. Towards the end of the tour, we were all told to turn our headlamps off to see what total darkness looks like, and then with just a small flicker, what it was like with the faint glow of candles workers depended on in the beginning mining era.
It should come as no surprise that a town with a rugged individualism mentality like Butte's also has its own distillery making spirits with names tied to Butte’s mining past. At Headframe Sprits, owned by Butte raised John McKee and his wife Courtney, you will find everything from gin and whiskey to vodka and bourbon. Head to the old fashioned bar tasting room to sample the liquor and the cocktails they create from it. The top seller is the Orphan Girl Bourbon Cream Liqueur, which is named for the mine. It’s similar to Bailey’s in taste and is mixed with Root Beer to create my favorite, the Dirty Orphan Girl cocktail.