Customers of a new distillery will have the opportunity to lean upon a relic of one of Butte’s most famous hotspots while enjoying the local spirits.
The back bar from the Rocky Mountain Café, which operated in Meaderville from the 1920s to 1960s, has been loaned by the World Museum of Mining to Headframe Spirits.
The distillery is expected to open by January 2012 and the centerpiece of the taste room will be the 24-foot, eight-piece mahogany and oak bar and back bar made in the early 1900s. It was the centerpiece of the Rocky Mountain Café, one of Butte’s most acclaimed restaurants and nightclubs, and the pride of one of its most colorful citizens.
According to news stories, the Rocky Mountain was owned by Teddy Traparish, a native of Dubrovnik in modern-day Croatia, who came to Butte in 1906 at the age of 19. He worked his way up from swamper to part owner in numerous restaurants and bars in town.
In 1929, after the stock market crash, Traparish opened the Rocky Mountain Café with partners Peter Antonioli and Louis Bugni. The nightclub, bar and restaurant featured a dance floor and orchestra, a gambling room, coal-fired ranges and a bar, despite the presence of Prohibition.
By 1935, the bar began to draw national attention; positive reviews appeared in the Saturday Evening Post and Readers Digest and in national newspapers including the Chicago Tribune and New York Times.
In 1961, with open-pit mining having destroyed much of Meaderville, Traparish closed the café. In 1966, he donated the back bar to the World Museum of Mining.
Traparish was famous for buying a new Cadillac every year for more than 50 years. He died in 1971 following a stroke.
Tina Davis, executive director of the World Museum of Mining, said the bar had not been on display at the museum since about 2003 and experts worried that continued storage could harm the piece.
Davis said it was a “difficult decision” for the board to lend such an historic piece.
However, she said after a long vetting process and promises that it would be cared for and restored, the museum board agreed to lease the back bar “for the restoration and protection of the artifact” and so that it could “be back in an environment where it could be seen.”