Montana Historical Society

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Montana: Stories of the Land

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Chapter 10 - Politics and the Copper Kings, 1889-1904

Columbia Gardens: William A. Clark's Happy Legacy

William A. Clark is often cast as the villain in the War of the Copper Kings, perhaps because he was more pretentious and aloof than either Marcus Daly or Augustus Heinze. Even his detractors, however, appreciated Clark's decision to build a recreational park just east of Butte. Columbia Gardens offered playgrounds, a dance pavilion, picnic grounds, flower gardens, and a manmade lake for swimming and boating. Admission was free and Clark, who also owned the streetcar system, provided free transportation to Columbia Gardens for children every Thursday. According to C. B. Glasscock, in War of the Copper Kings (New York: Grosset and Dunlap, 1935), Clark once claimed, "The Columbia Gardens is my monument. Of my many business enterprises it is the one I love best, and it is practically the only one on which I lose money." The Anaconda Company, which owned the park after Clark's death, added a roller coaster, Ferris wheel, and a carousel among other attractions. In 1973, the Company closed the park to expand its open pit mine, and an arson fire destroyed the arcade that same year. Older Butte residents still mourn its loss.

Miner's Union Day
Miner's Union Day, Granite, MT, photo by Hower, Philipsburg, MT, Montana Historical Society Photo Archives 947-770