Posted: Sep 3, 2013 9:26 PM by Adam Bell - MTN News
40 years ago, the Columbia Gardens in Butte closed up shop for good. And even though it has been four decades since then, the community still remembers the impacts of this amusement park.
"The gardens touches people in ways that not a lot of other places touch people," Butte's Archives Director, Ellen Crain, said.
Crain herself has stories of her times at the Columbia Gardens and the happy memories she will carry forever.
"I think it was one place that everyone had a good time," Crain said.
The origin of the Columbia Gardens goes back to 1899 when William A. Clark, known as the Butte Copper King, was traveling through town. Disturbed by the image of watching kids play in the dirty, dusty street, he turned to the manager of his electric company at the time, and told him to find him a piece of land to build an amusement park for those kids.
"So Clark and Jessie Wharton found this great little treat in the woods on the east ridge and they bought the land," Crain said.
Not only did they purchase the land, but they also provided a home for kids to enjoy during the summer - including free kid Thursdays - when children got in for free once a week.
"The gardens evolved over time. It was a large place that had a pavilion, it has restaurants, it had an arcade," Crain said.
And they also carry a tremendous amount of history including a visit from President Teddy Roosevelt with more than 15,000 people in May 1903.
Crain said, "So the gardens closed in 1973 and had that devastating fire that took out the pavilion and the merry-go-round and many of the components."
But the fire wasn't the only reason for the closure of this Butte icon.
"They say it ran at a tremendous loss and it probably did. The season is very short in Butte for amusement parks," she said.
But even today, 40 years later, the Gardens are remembered by many.
Crain said, "It's amazing to me how this is a place that is still talked about and it evokes such strong memories for people, even today after all this time."