Written -- 1997
An imposing structure, the seven-story Metals Bank building on West Park street looms over uptown Butte. But few know the varied and colorful history - not to mention scandal - behind this building.
The structure was built by Cass Gilbert, a turn-of-the-century architect famous for such structures as the Supreme Court and Senate buildings in Washington, D.C. Gilbert was a close friend of Benito Mussolini, the Italian ruler now famous as a leader of the Axis powers in World War II. As a result, the marble that seems to be everywhere in this building is imported from Italy. Looking around, your eye is immediately drawn upward by the large pillars to the high, vaulted ceiling. Another stunning feature in this building is the enormous windows. They are African mahogany, which has been extinct since the early 1920's, and solid copper. In the back of the bank there is a huge polished steel vault.
The bank was built to house the Daly Bank, Marcus Daly's own. After Daly's death in 1908, it was left to his heirs. In 1920, when one of the heirs died, Butte claimed the Daly bank as the Metals Bank. When it closed, the building housed several other businesses in the other six floors of the bank.
After years of abandonment and poor maintainence, the Metals Bank was a wreck. In 1987, a group came in to turn the enormous banking lobby into a restaurant. Says Mike Mazzolini, "We expected the cleanup to take three months. It took seven."
The walls of the lobby had been covered with eight coats of paint, and the cleanup crew had planned to paint over them again. Then one day, someone began scratching at the coats of paint on the walls. He discovered the solid copper window trim.
"Then, of course, we had to revamp our entire plan for renovating the room. No one knew how valuable this room was," Mazzolini says.
Unfortunately, some things will never be the same. For instance, the crew was unable to keep the copper leaf trim on the pillars intact and remove the paint.
Even so, they did a wonderful job restoring the beautiful old lobby. You can almost feel the throb of the crowd of yesterday's Butte when you step out of the cold into this building.
As historic and unique as the Metals Bank is, the buildings that occupied the lot before it are just as, if not more, amazing and unique.
One of these buildings was the Comique theater, one of many in Butte in an era when stars of the screen and stage flocked to Butte. Another was the State Savings and Trust bank, the site of the murder of Patrick Largey.
As well known as copper kings Daly, Heinze, and Clark are, it is amazing how few people know about Patrick Largey. Known as the "fourth copper king," Largey was well on his way to the top - before an 1895 fire in the warehouse district.
The fire, which occured at the Kenyon-Conell Warehouse, killed all but three of Butte's firemen and injured many. Largey was blamed by many for the fire, because they believed he had illegally stored dynamite in the warehouse. One man in particular, Thomas J. Riley, held Largey responsible. Riley had lost a leg in the blast, and although Largey had paid him $1,500 to compensate, Riley was still dissatisfied.
Riley began stalking and threataning Largey. Then finally, on January 11, 1898, he came up and shot Largey in his office overlooking State Street.
The Metals Bank offers more than just history, though - the Metals Banque restaurant offers delicious food and great service. An added bonus - you can eat in the vault.
A very special thank you to Mike Mazzolini.
Keep up the good work!
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