"This is the only room without a fresco," said Ann Cote Smith. "It was possibly the cherubs that offended the Sisters of Charity, and they had them painted over."
A slender, energetic woman, Mrs. Smith smiled as she led us on a tour through what was once the home of William Andrews Clark, a Butte, Mont., copper king of the late 19th century.The mansion was inherited from her mother, Anna Cote, who in turn purchased it from the last of a succession of owners - the Helena diocese of the Catholic Church.
Today the Copper King Mansion is less the home of a wealthy man than a portrait of an era. In three-and-a-half decades the Cotes, mother and daughter, have filled the mansion with rich period furnishings and memorabilia of the time, much of it from the Butte area.
William Andrews Clark was already a self-made millionaire, many times over, when the mansion on West Granite Street was built in 1884. Sixteen years later he would win election to the U.S. Senate.
Described by historian David Lavender as "intellectual, avaricious and ice-blooded," he was a mining and railroad tycoon with extensive holdings in real estate, banking and sugar. The Great Falls Tribune and the old Salt Lake Herald were also his.
His enterprises stretched from Montana to Arizona, and west into California. Clarksdale, in southern Arizona, and Clark County, Nev., are his place-names.
His income in 1884 is said to have totaled $17 million a month. The quarter-million dollar price tag for the Butte mansion amounted to no more than a half-day's wage.
The three-story brick edifice was built in a style loosely described as modern Elizabethan, rising stone by stone, brick by brick, in gritty opulence, above the rude mining town of the day.
If you want to build one for yourself a partial recipe would include nine fireplaces imported from France, a 62-foot grand ballroom, 90 doors and 639 window panes, many of expensive Tiffany jewel glass.
Woodwork of oak, cherry, and maple was handsomely carved by the finest artisans of the day. Above the wainscot, plaster casework, finished in gold leaf, and paintings executed in fresco, adorn walls and ceilings.
Of particular interest is the grand staircase, known as the "Staircase of All Nations." Renowned for its carved designs of birds and flowers from many countries, it was exhibited at the St. Louis World's Fair, in 1909, as an outstanding example of European wood carving.
When acquired by Mrs. Cote in 1952, the mansion had been stripped of its original furnishings, though happily most of Clark's intriguing built-ins remain.
His "auxiliary police signal box," for instance, was a direct line from the house to police and fire stations.
Bear-claw tubs remained, with fixtures on the side rather than the end for the convenience of bathers.
One bathroom had a multi-fauceted shower pole that sprayed water from all directions. "It was," Ann Cote Smith said. "like taking a bath in a car wash."
The same room was also fitted with an "oxyaline machine." Plugged in, it emitted ozone. The manufacturers claimed the device was a cure for asthma, cancer, sore feet and baldness.
Noteworthy among the Cotes' additions are Wedgewood figurines by the AshworthBros. of Hanley England. The painted figurines,rather than Grecian or Roman, areof American Indians.
A walnut bed that once belonged to the outlaw Clubfoot George, fills the Gold Room. Spades in the headboard, and the bed's club feet, were duly noted.
A carved rosewood couch in the sitting room, however, is a Clark original. as are the book cases and most of the beer steins.
It was in the sitting room that Clark received his guests like a sitting potentate. Cigar smoke, Mrs. Smith observed, had stained the ceiling frescos.
The Copper King Mansion is one of the stops of Old No. 1, a replica of Butte's early-day cars.
The 1 1/2-hour tour takes in most Butte attractions including the Mineral Museum at Montana State College, the Berkeley Pit, at one time the largest all-truck operated copper mine in the world, the World Museum of Mining and Hell Roaring Gulch, a reconstructed western town.
The Neversweat and Washoe Railroad also offers an intriguing ride through Butte's underground mining district. The M-10 electric motor car was built in shopsof the Butte-Anaconda & Pacific R.R. in 1925, designed originally to maintain overhead trolley wires.
Unfortunately, we were in Butte on "egg day," when the Neversweat and Washoe line shuts down. Egg day, we were told, marks a traditional rivalry between local high schools, when any moving vehicle is liable to be bombarded by eggs, some of questionable age.
However, it's easy to find your way around Butte on your own. By proceeding west on Granite Street, you'll wind up at the World Museum of Mining and Hell Roaring Gulch.
The museum is a non-profit, locally-sponsored enterprise that features both indoor and outdoor exhibits. Its aim is to preserve a segment of Western history that is fast disappearing, namely that of 19th-century hard-rock mining.
Old underground fire fighting equipment, a full-size Nordberg double drum hoiost, gold bullion scales, faded photographs, scale models of the mines, are among the many exhibits housed in a corrugated metal building that serves as the museum.
Outside, you can inspect a giant head frame that once lay astride the Orphan Girl shaft.
Skip cages, horse whims, an armored car, an experimental electrical ore truck, all are part of a disorderly melange of 19th century mining equipment strewn across much of the 12-acre site.
Named for Big Butte, a blocky summit to the north-west, Butte was an insignificant gold camp in 1864, almost dying of neglect as shallow placers played out.
The stampede to Butte started in the 1870's with the discovery of promising silver veins deep underground. By then, Clark had claims on the hill north of thecamp, and had acquired a crude smelter by foreclosing on William Fain, the man whose strike had set off the rush.
However, it was left to a square-faced Irishman, Marcus Daly, to reap the prize.
His discovery of huge copper deposits behind Butte led to the founding of the Anaconda Copper Co., and evaluated Butte to preeminance as one of the world's great copper and silver producing giants.
The struggle for dominance by Clark, Daly and a third mining titan, Augustus Heinze-the so-called war of the Copper Kings-was the stuff legends are made of.
The mining museum is open June-Labor Day 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. the rest of the year. Closed Dec.-Feb. Admission is free. The electric railway tour also departs twice daily, Memorial Day through Labor Day. The fare is a modest $2.50 per seat.
Guided tours are conducted at the Copper King Mansion 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. year-round. There is a minimal charge.
Maps and brochures may be obtained from the Butte Chamber of Commerce at 2950Harrison Ave.
880925 BUTTE ]
Input file was /asst/csi/0918/pass2/0020 Output file was /asst/csi/0918/pass3/0047