BUTTE — On Mercury street sits an empty building among many empty lots that once was a flourishing part of Butte’s history. The red-light district.
From Charlie Chaplin raving about the beautiful women in Butte’s red-light district to Evangelist William Biederwolf condemning Butte as hell itself for being the widest open town in the wide-open west, Butte’s red-light district has a lot of history.
The red-light district is no longer around and only three of the original buildings are still standing. One of those buildings is the Blue Range building. The city is about to vote on whether it should be demolished.
Larry Smith, President of Butte Citizens for Preservation and Revitalization board, believes Butte-Silver Bow didn’t take the necessary steps to protect the historic structure.
"We haven’t seen it advertised for sale. This all happened very recently in the last ten days so I think the due diligence has not been there," Smith said.
But Karen Byrnes, the Director of Community development for Butte-Silver-Bow, said that the building is under contract for sale between the owner and another private party. The person who’s interested in purchasing the building had an analysis done on the structure and what the structural engineer found got Butte-Silver Bow became involved.
"[Blue Range] meets some of the criteria under our dangerous building ordinance. That doesn’t mean that the building is condemned, it does not mean that the building is slated for demolition," Byrnes said.
Byrnes says that the owner and those he’s working with have to give Butte-Silver Bow a plan to abate the conditions which might include a partial demolition.
"That is where the public process now will begin because that demolition permit goes for review by our historic preservation commission and that is where we’re sitting in the process I believe right now," Byrnes said.