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Can Butte, Montana be the next Golden, Colorado?

Updated: Sep 11, 2020

Mining towns were built to house the workers of nearby mines. Created out of necessity, these simple housing camps grew to accommodate the influx of people and additional industries that came along, too. While mining has seen its heyday come and go, several mining towns remain but only a handful have been able to grow beyond the very thing that created them. In particular two of those are Butte, Montana and Golden, Colorado. They both offer historic charm with the growth potential and business opportunities of the current day and age.

Golden, Colorado sits at the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. Founded in the late 1800s during the Pike Peak's Gold Rush, Golden has been able to preserve its history throughout the centuries while attracting new industries and people. Home to The Colorado School of Mines, a public university focused on science and engineering, Coors Brewery and the headquarters of fast-food chain Boston Market. Just 30 minutes from Denver, the attraction to Golden brings the city life and suburb balance.

Also founded in the late 1800s, Butte, Montana is located in the northern Rocky Mountains. In its history, Butte produced the most copper in the United States during the emergence of electricity (a period of high copper demand) giving it the nickname "the richest hill on earth." This nickname was also appropriate due to the amount of wealth in the area.

The historic Uptown boasts a collection of buildings home to local coffee shops and restaurants. The streets welcome the Summer Farmers Market, Folk Music Festival, Evel Knievel Days and a St. Patrick's Day Parade that rivals Boston. The hillside of Butte is sprinkled with headframes adorned with flags and the name of the mine they guard. Montana Tech University, a top ranked engineering school and NorthWestern Energy call Butte home.

A view from Uptown, Butte, MT.

At any time, a lesson in history is available through the museums, archives and architecture. The Victorian homes throughout town have lavish details and boldness that reflect their original owner's opulence. Historic markers on homes and high rises tell of their origin story. An impressive number of mansions built during the copper mining days still stand; the attestation that Butte had flourished and once held the wealth of a country.

Top row: Victorian Homes in Butte

Bottom row: Clark Chateau and Hodgens Ryan Mansion

Golden is just 30 minutes outside of metro Denver, a proximity that influences traffic and population density. With a smaller population and area than Butte, this town isn’t so small. The average person per square mile for Golden is 2,000; compared to Butte’s average which is 44 people per square mile. Butte is located 80 minutes from Bozeman and 60 minutes from Helena, a digestible distance from the traffic and crowds that come with bigger cities. And if needed, just a quick drive away and made all the more pleasant thanks to the Montana scenery and speed limit of 80 MPH.

Both towns offer top-ranked engineering universities, opportunities for industrial growth and new businesses to call home along with the entertainment from community gatherings and events. Their mountainous locations give locals and visitors endless options for outdoor recreation ranging from hiking to skiing to river floating and more.

Considering all this, can Butte mimic the small-town success of Golden?

Golden has been and continues to be a desirable place to live and work. And Butte is more than capable of replicating the success of Golden and even surpassing it.

Present day Butte, MT.

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