The O'Rourke Building: A Brief History, Part 2
Nearly a year after John's death, Mary O'Rourke made a business decision of her own, deciding to move the family home in Butte and construct an apartment building in its place.
This building would be larger than the former; the architectural style would be similar to the Merrimac: three stories, echoing the same arched pediments and stone urns around the parapet, offering an up-scaled living option to the people of Butte.
The O'Rourke and annex, decades after their initial construction, continue to thrive and provide housing for the residents of Butte.
Resemblances aside, the new building would have its own architectural elements, including a stone band at its base and the O’Rourke family name adorned in stone on the front above the entrance. Thus, it would come to be known as the O'Rourke Building.
The O’Rourke’s location – the corner of Quartz and Alaska – made it more visually prominent than its sister building. It wouldn't be long until the Merrimac would drop its name; since referred to as the "annex." Mary O'Rourke's decision would prove her to be an astute businessman.
City plans show the favorable location of the O'Rourke and the Annex.
As is the case with many older buildings, the O'Rourke passed through time with several different owners and occupants. As Butte experienced the ebbs and flows of population, economic shift and new technology and architecture styles emerged, older buildings began to show signs of neglect.
A photo of the front the O'Rourke circa 2003; the building’s neglect visible from the outside.
The O'Rourke Building was no different— once a structure of grandeur; now merely a shadow of the past. With the exception of pigeons, the building remained unoccupied since the 1980s. In 2003, on top of owed back taxes, the county issued an abatement order that required the current owner to bring both of the buildings up to code or tear them down..
Various photos of the O'Rourke from 2003 and prior to the 2017 purchase by Fôrt + Hōm reveal an unfavorable site both inside and out.
Butte loves its historic buildings which meant the O'Rourke would have a fighting chance before facing demolition. The county granted the O'Rourke a one-year reprieve from the abatement order.
During this time, Butte Citizens for Preservation and Revitalization (also known as CPR) raised the funds to pay for the back-due taxes and acquired a grant to pay for a building assessment which showed the building was structurally sound. (Why might this be important? I have a hunch it makes a much easier case for survival when a building isn't facing structural demise on its own.) Until a new buyer came along, CPR volunteers cleaned and kept watch on the O'Rourke.
Not much changed in 2005 when a buyer finally came around: the building continued to sit empty, untouched and transition through several owners whom had big ideas which came to little fruition—that is, until that fateful day in 2017 when Fôrt + Hōm decided it was time for the O'Rourke to begin again.
The team’s work in restoring livability continues. The exterior shines with a recent wash of the brick, new windows and paint on the trim and lion's head.