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Demolition of Blue Range prostitution cribs in Butte underway
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Demolition of Blue Range prostitution cribs in Butte underway

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Blue Range "cribs" coming down

Larry Hoffman, who has owned the so-called Blue Range cribs (seen in the background) for decades, is shown on a backhoe Monday. Demolition of a warehouse on the side of the cribs began this weekend and the cribs will be torn down in the coming days and weeks.

The so-called Blue Range prostitution “cribs” in Uptown Butte are coming down.

At the end of a controversy that riled historic preservationists, commissioners and many residents earlier this year, demolition of a warehouse on the east end of the property began this weekend and most of the cribs building will be torn down in the days and maybe weeks ahead.

A more definitive timeline isn’t possible because there aren’t enough trucks right now to haul all of the material to the landfill daily, said Larry Hoffman, a mining engineer who has owned the old buildings on East Mercury Street for decades.

“The problem is we are really limited on truck capacity,” he said. “Like everybody else, we’ve got limitations.”

Hoffman agreed to sell the buildings to Staack’s Motor Sports and its owners planned to tear down the warehouse and all but the south and west walls of the cribs.

A repair shop on the west end is to be restored for expanded business space. Owner Ed Staack said Monday there are still plans to demolish and clean up the rest of the property, with its future use still undetermined.

Hoffman and Staack were both at the site Monday and said once again that the buildings were beyond repair and demolition was necessary.

“It had to be done sooner or later,” Staack said. “It’s for the better.”

The “cribs” were a series of small prostitutes' rooms in a two-story masonry building constructed around 1897 at 56 E. Mercury St. The building has had other uses over the years, including apartments.

Staack’s commissioned a structural engineer to inspect the buildings and he said the cribs and warehouse were in horrible shape and unsafe. He said it could cost up to $2 million to save the building.

Butte-Silver Bow’s building official declared the building unsafe but when a demolition permit was sought, the county’s Historic Preservation Commission intervened and imposed a 90-day stay with stipulations that alternative uses be explored.

Preservationists said the buildings were an iconic part of Butte’s infamous but historic Red Light District, others said they were ugly, useless and dangerous, and the latest demolition debate was underway in Butte.

The building official ended that debate in late February by exercising a public safety provision that was final and cleared the way for demolition.

More controversy followed, however, when the board overseeing Butte’s Uptown tax-increment district agreed to steer $24,407 in tax dollars to the demolition effort. That was to cover 25 percent of the total estimated costs.

Opponents of that move said tax dollars should not go to private businesses to tear down a building. Board members said the site would be redeveloped so it was a good use of tax money.

But after all that, it’s coming down.

Staack said many of the bricks from the warehouse torn down over the weekend are being salvaged and will be used in restoring the garage area.

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