Council Saloon

Council Saloon from “Some Representative Businesses, Butte, Montana,” c. 1901.

Provided

The intersection of Utah and Front Streets in the 1880s and early 1890s was the heart of South Butte, a separate town with its own address scheme and population count until the mid-1890s. Front Street was the embarkation point for many travelers, with the Montana Central Railroad just south of the warehouses on the south side of the street. In 1906, the Northern Pacific Depot was completed across the street from these two buildings and still stands. The area was platted in 1881 as the Noyes & Upton Railroad Addition.

In late 1888 Bennett Block #1 was constructed at Utah and Front. Willard Bennett lived in Deer Lodge but was owner of the building and vice president of Bennett Brothers Co., a dealer in agricultural implements, carriages, wagons, and produce. In addition to the store and office here, they had a large warehouse across Front Street as well as a store at 128-132 E. Park at Arizona in another “Bennett Block,” also known as the Willard House (lodgings) and on the Arizona Street side, the Nelson Block. A saloon of various names occupied part of 128 E. Park for many years — from about 1901-1910 it was called The Council. The southwest corner of Park and Arizona is mostly a vacant lot today with a small modern store.

On Front Street, Bennett Block #1 in 1890 contained a general store, a cigar and stationery store, and the South Butte Post Office.

In 1890, a two-story building was completed to the west as a gambling hall and saloon. In 1906, as reflected in the year emblazoned on the parapet, a new building was erected there, Bennett Block #2. By 1908, the two Bennett buildings together comprised the Bennett Hotel, with “transients solicited” to enjoy electric lights, steam heat, stationary basins, and baths. The ground floor continued to serve as retail space, including a drug store and a restaurant.

The ghost sign on the north side of Bennett Block #1 advertised the 1920s grocery store that was in the easternmost retail space. The Stilwell Grocery was owned and operated by Elias (president) and Roy (vice president) Stilwell. They lived with their wives Olive and Rita at 2710 and 2802 State St., respectively (the Floral Park neighborhood). In 1928, when the Stilwell Grocery was on the ground floor, the upper level continued as the Bennett Hotel, managed by Mrs. Agnes Brady.

By 1944, Block #1 was owned by Harry Brinck, the Montana state distributor for Rock-Ola phonographs, amusement games, and novelties. His long tenure there, into the 1970s, gave the common name to the building: Brinck’s. Block #2 for many more recent years served as the Deluxe Café and Bar and was still in use in 2012.

The two buildings on Front Street were demolished in 2014.

Local geologist and historian Dick Gibson has lived in Butte since 2003 and has worked as a tour guide for various organizations and museums. He can be reached at rigibson@earthlink.net.

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