Butte’s famous literary son, Ed Dobb, will be remembered through a permanent library collection in the Jacobs House on the north corner of Montana and Granite streets.
A research library will be created and named the Edwin C. Dobb Memorial Peace Library to honor the memory of Butte’s most famous literary son, a county official announced during a memorial for Dobb Saturday.
Christine Martin, Clark Chateau program manager, made the announcement during the many eulogies that came from Dobb’s friends and family at a Butte-based celebration of Dobb’s life held at the Knights of Columbus. Dobb, who died in July from complications of a heart attack, wrote “Pennies from Hell” for Harper’s Magazine in the 1990s.
The essay is a well-regarded literary piece about the Berkeley Pit in the wake of 342 snow geese dying in the toxic waters in 1995 after landing there to rest while migrating south. Dobb wrote many articles and essays for literary magazines, including National Geographic. He taught long-form narrative writing in the School of Journalism's graduate program at the University of California at Berkeley for close to 20 years.
Ellen Crain, Butte-Silver Bow Public Archives director, said the future library is fitting because Dobb’s writing “really reflected a man of his time.
“He understood the cost of certain industrial exploitation, but also the need for that exploitation. We’ve got to have mining but it’s a terrible cost,” Crain said Monday. “I think the library will serve and help people to understand that time and place.”
The library will contain around 10,000 books and will include Dobb's writing. The books came, at a nominal price, from another famed literary presence in Butte, David Abrams.
Abrams’ first novel, Fobbit, was a New York Times Notable Book for 2012 and he has been hailed by critics for rendering the absurdity of the conflict in Iraq in the 2000s. His second novel, Brave Deeds, is a more serious portrait of the engagement.
Abrams said that to have his name associated with Dobb is “just such an honor.
“I have such a great respect for him. He is Butte’s true literary son. When Christine told me what they wanted to do, I was really touched. To have my name associated is just beyond words,” Abrams said.
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The Jacob’s House, which was built by Butte’s first mayor in the late 1800s, is across the street from the county courthouse. The Root and the Bloom Collective has been working on the interior of the house this past summer with help from AmeriCorps interns. AmeriCorps is an organization that puts young people to work providing national and community service around the country. Another phase of work on the interior is expected next year, Martin said.
When the work is complete, the upstairs will be a private residence for visiting artists and scholars. The first floor will house the library and be open to the public to peruse.
The library will be similar to the B-SB Public Archives in that visitors to the library will be able to look at the books but won’t be able to check the books out.
Martin said the books include a broad swath of topics, including books on history, philosophy and novels.
“There are a lot of Montana authors and regional authors and we thought that was really important to acquire,” she said.
She called this “the beginning of the collection of the peace library.” She said the Root and the Bloom Collective intends to enlarge and enhance the collection with more books over time.
The Root and the Bloom Collective is a nonprofit organization that runs the Chateau for the county. Carson Becker, the founder of the collective, reached out to Dobb in 2014 to ask for his help and support. He joined the collective as a board member immediately. Becker has called Dobb a "mentor" and "an inspiration."
Crain called the library an enormous resource for Butte. Crain knew Dobb and other members of his family personally. Dobb was born in Butte in 1950. The oldest of seven children, he grew up in the Mining City and his love for the place was lifelong.
“What a tremendous loss,” she said of Dobb. “His writing had impact. His voice will be missed.”