There was no fanfare — no cake with candles, nor any bright big balloons.
Few people knew that a popular Butte landmark reached a milestone this year — it turned 100 years old.
To give just a few hints — it’s an area enjoyed by young and old alike. Summer and fall is when it is most utilized, but winter fun can be had, too. Here’s an added hint — in the spring, many high-schoolers can be found competing there.
Have you guessed it yet? If not — well, the answer is Stodden Park and The Montana Standard owes a big thanks to Wayne Stodden for pointing out this centennial occasion.
Named for William T. Stodden, Butte’s mayor at the time, Stodden had gifted the land to the city. The park didn't have much going for it 100 years ago and could only be described as a large, desolate, rocky dirt field. But oh, it had potential!
Almost from the get-go, the land was utilized as a make-shift golf course. Naturally, work was needed to level the ground, but it was accomplished with minimal fuss. By 1927, thanks to the Butte Exchange Club, the Butte Municipal Golf Association had formed. Eleven years later, with the help of the city and the Works Progress Administration (WPA), work began on a new 18-hole course. On Aug. 20, 1939, golfers were competing on the new course for the first time. As time marched on, even more improvements would be made.
What a difference 100 years makes! The park has become a symbol of Butte, all thanks to the many innovative and progressive ideas through the years, along with a good deal of blood, sweat and tears.
Now, it is home to a competitive golf course, first-class ball fields, tennis courts, playground equipment that complements Butte’s mining history, picnic area, and the Veterans Memorial, which includes an amphitheater.
The showstoppers, however, are undeniably the summer water park, Ridge Waters, along with the Spirit of Columbia Gardens Carousel and the newest addition, the Jack Crowley Jr. Club House at the Municipal Golf Course.
So, to get one and all up to speed on the park’s history, below are a number of little known facts, some figures, on a place that has become something Butte residents have all witnessed a dozen and one times — yet another testament to the city’s “can do” spirit.
- By mid-1920, plans were underway for the park, but who it would be named for was up for debate. Several names were touted before a final decision was made to name the new park after Mayor Stodden. He may have donated the land but he opposed the park being named after him. One suggested name was Warren G. Harding Park, after the 1920 Republican presidential nominee. Harding would go on to win the election and in 1923, visited the Mining City and would have a local highway named after him, Harding Highway. Another name that was “thrown into the hat” was Shippen Park, to honor long-time Methodist minister of Butte, the Rev. W.C. Shippen. Other names submitted included Flanders Field, The Idle Hour (sounds more like a name for a saloon), Oregon Park, Liberty Park, Zester Park (no clue why since the only reference to zester to be found is in the dictionary referring to a kitchen appliance), City Park (a lot of “thought” went into that one) and Annette Bichot Park, in honor of Butte adopted daughter, Annette Bichot Markland. A native of France, the 23-year-old died May 25, 1920, and was the first woman given a military funeral in Butte’s history.
- From almost the time of its inception, it was the intention of city officials to turn the 127-acre park into a “bower of beauty.” In anticipation, 2,000 willows and 700 poplar trees were planted. Flowers and benches were next on the list so “Butte will have a park of which to be proud of.”
- So in May 1935, talks were underway on “what to do about Stodden Park.” The Butte Exchange Club wanted to keep with the status quo and maintain the golf course; others formed the South Side Progressive Club. Their plan was to get rid of the links and build a playground. We know how this scenario eventually ended — the golf course remained and it may have taken decades, but playground equipment was eventually installed.
- World War II had come to an end and a petition for an aircraft flying field at Stodden Park was filed. Brought forth by Capt. Marcus Wysel and Lt. John Murgatroyd, the idea never made it off the runway as the Butte City Council quickly denied the request at the urging of airport officials.
- Imagine elephants and other animals roaming through Stodden. Well, in the late 1940s and early 1950s, they did just that. Thousands of residents flocked to Stodden to get a close-up look as Ringling Brothers pitched their circus tents at the park.
- In the early 1950s, plans were underway to build a new educational facility in Butte, East Junior High School. The location, for a couple of years, would be up for grabs as different factions campaigned. One such potential area was Walsh Park, which was located right across from the Butte Civic Center, another was the site of the Webster-Garfield. Others preferred to build it at Stodden Park or on Grand Avenue property. In the early stages, Stodden was definitely the frontrunner, but the Grand Avenue Area Association campaigned hard for residents’ approval with their “Vote for the Site that is Right” and eventually won. The junior high opened just in time for the 1957 school year.
- It was decided Nov. 16, 1953, that the new school was definitely not going to be built at Walsh Park on Harrison Avenue. Deemed unsafe, officials said the “ground was not strong enough to bear the weight of a junior high school.”
- Sixty years ago, the first permanent home for Butte’s National Guard unit was dedicated. Located on the edge of Stodden Park, the armory was built at a cost of $88,000 and was described by The Montana Standard as a “fine building.”
- In the April 5, 1965 general election, residents could vote to approve an indoor-outdoor pool proposed at Stodden for all to enjoy. They did not approve it – not by a long shot. Instead, the $425,000 proposal got a resounding no with 3,131 voting against it to 1,871 who were all in.
- Three years later, city officials got their wish and plans were back on to build not an indoor-outdoor pool, but a seasonal outdoor facility. It was all thanks to contributions, mainly $100,000 given to the cause by Elsie and Jack Corette, and various grants from other organizations. An added bonus, Highland View got a new clubhouse.
- More plans, once on the backburner, were also coming to the forefront by 1969. Coming to the park were four tennis courts, an ice skating rink, picnic area, and a playground.
- The grand opening of the Stodden Park pool was delayed because of rain and a lot of it. It took workers longer than expected and the July 1, 1969 deadline was missed. Mother Nature was not cooperating at all. It was reported that Butte residents had not had a wetter month of June since 1913. Despite all the delays, the pool finally opened on Aug. 1.
- For all Butte’s skating enthusiasts and competitors, by 1970, a 400-meter Olympic-size rink was added to the park.
- The park has some long-ago neighborhood “memorabilia” in its midst. In the spring of 1973, several trees, evergreens and shades, were removed from the McQueen Addition and replanted in the park.
- It was a little late in the season, but by late August 1974, the new baseball and softball fields were near completion.
- By the spring of 1975, city officials decided to “spruce” things up in and around Stodden Park. Evergreen shrubs were planted within and Siberian elms, Scotch pine, and blue spruce were planted along Rowe Road.
- Price of admission at the Municipal Swimming Pool in 1975 was 25 cents for kids 12 and under and 35 cents for 13 to 17-year-olds. If you were 18 or older you paid a whopping 50 cents.
- Residents were avidly anticipating the pool to open in 1976. They waited in vain. Vital repairs were needed to open and time ran out. The pool didn’t reopen until the next summer.
- Butte got an early Christmas present Dec. 17, 1977, thanks to federal grants. It was announced that $558,000 in improvements were coming to Stodden Park — including an additional nine hole, par three course.
- Water was needed for this added course at Highland View. In 1978, a Clancy drilling company found it on its first attempt at the 140-foot level.
- What else was needed in 1978 was a hexagonal shelter in the park’s picnic area to house fireplaces. It was completed by the fall of that year.
- Led by Tripwire, a local group of Vietnam War veterans, a groundbreaking ceremony for the new amphitheater at Stodden Park took place on Veterans Day 1978.
- It was decided in September 1985 to move the original soldier’s statue from Memorial Park east of Butte High School to Stodden Park. In 2006, it was on the steps of the Butte-Silver Bow Courthouse, and by 2018, it was moved to the inside of the courthouse.
- On Aug. 7, 1995, the Stodden Park pool was renamed “Corette Memorial Pool,” to honor the late Elsie and Jack Corette. It was through their generosity that the pool ever came to be. At the time, former Mayor Mike Micone called it the “best investment ever made in this community.”
- Voters wanted their tax dollars to instead benefit the new Butte Family YMCA on Hanson Road, so the Stodden Pool did not open for the 2006 summer season. In fact, it never again opened.
- By September 2017, nearly 100 names were offered up for consideration for the new water park. It came down to Ridge Waters and Treasure Cove, but there were other imaginative proposals including Copper Town Slip & Dip, Avoca Water Park, the City Dive, Berkeley Rapids, CU H2O Water Park, Butte Sluice, Pooly McPool Face, Butte Bubbles, Our Lady of the Rapids, Copper Waves, Dat Kool Pool, Miners Cove, Boomtown Basin, Butte Silver Suds, Stodden Park Renaissance Cool Pool, Money Pit, Butte Aqua America, Tap ‘Er Light Pool Complex, and plain and simple — The Best Pool in the Whole World.
- The summer of 2018 was certainly memorable. Ridge Waters opened for the first time June 27, 2018. The facility, built at a cost of $8.7 million, touted a lazy river, waterslides and an aquatic jungle gym. It was reported that residents stood in a line that stretched out to the parking lot. One anxious 12-year-old boy confessed “I can’t stop shaking.” Exactly one month later, the Spirit of Columbia Gardens carousel opened its doors as well. After years and years of back-breaking work and numerous fundraisers, the carousel became a reality. “Fun this way” was the sidewalk message for kids and kids at heart to see as they made their way in.
- It was the gift that kept on giving. During a dedication ceremony on June 18, 2019, for the $5.5 million worth of new upgrades and improvements at Stodden, it was announced that an additional $4.5 million would be donated for a new clubhouse at Highland View, major irrigation system upgrades, and other features. The substantial monetary donations were thanks to the Dennis & Phyllis Washington Foundation, in conjunction with Montana Resources. The initial donation made it possible to have, among other things, a $1 million playground, new vehicle entrance, new tennis courts, expanded parking, a roundabout, and new and improved lighting.
- The newly built clubhouse at the Highland View Golf Course was revealed to the public on Jan. 31, 2021. Named in honor of Jack Crowley Jr., the building, which is utilized throughout the year, houses two indoor golf simulators, a fully stocked bar, commercial kitchen and dining area.