The History, Neighborhoods & People Of Butte, Montana

Rambler

 

Photographer Ian van Coller is the Edge of Humanity Magazine contributor of this social documentary photography.  From his book/project ‘Butte, America: The Richest Hill on Earth‘.  To see Ian’s projects click on any image.

 

Baylen

Baylen

 

Adam

Adam

 

Plastic Hydrangeas

Plastic Hydrangeas

 

Butte is not your typical mining town. At the end of the 19th century, Butte mines were the largest producers of copper in the world, with the dominant share of the copper wire used to electrify the United States and the rest of the world coming from this one mountainside. Once known as the wealthiest city in America, the majority of residents today live modest lives amidst dwindling industry and declining wages. Butte’s colorful and controversial history includes the murder of union activist, the establishment of one of the first successful miners unions in the nation, the bulldozing of worker neighborhoods by the Anaconda Copper Mining Company in the 1950s, and the corporation’s eventual abandonment of the copper mines in 1974. The abandonment of the copper mines left behind the largest superfund site in the United States, including hundreds of miles of underground tunnels that today are filled with water contaminated with every heavy metal imaginable, and will continue so in-perpetuity.

 

Darth Vader House

Walkerville Snow

 

Charlie

Charlie

 

Blue on Blue

Blue on Blue

 

Headframe

Headframe

 

Highway impressions of Butte suggest a landscape of incredible ecological disaster, and a town falling apart at the seams. Similar to many western towns dying after the closure of mines and railroads, Butte’s once thriving economic base no longer exists. The town remains a center of ethnic diversity as well as blue-collar and union values within the conservative state of Montana; and Butte residents continue to celebrate its tumultuous history with pride, even as it reinvents itself and a new generation comes of age.

 

Richard

Richard

 

Men's room

Men’s room

 

Jim

Jim

 

Darth Vader House

Darth Vader House

 

This series of photographs focuses on the rich history of the uptown Butte neighborhoods that surround the old mine shafts, as well as the people who live there. The recurring theme of cars in the photographs serves as a figurative symbol of American destiny. Old miner’s homes in the uptown areas represent an external expression of the cultural, economic, and environmental history of the town, as well as a rich tradition of vernacular architecture that even now expresses the individuality of the town and its residents.

 

Walkerville

Walkerville

 

Longboarders

Longboarders

 

evel_knievel_days

Evel Knievel Days

 

 See also:

Growing Up Montana

Book By Ian van Coller

 


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