“Silver City” was the second color developed for the Montana Ghost Wood product lineup. The original idea was to replicate the silver-gray appearance of reclaimed barn wood seen in other parts of the country. Perfecting this color was not nearly as easy as the original Bannack Brown color, but once again, after countless hours, trial and error, we did.
Inspired by Butte, Montana, the original name chosen was Silver Bow after Silver Bow County. This historic area has some of the most beautiful silver and gray barn wood structures in the county.
Butte, which sits in the Silver Bow Creek Valley astride the Continental Divide, has one of the most amazing stories in U.S. history. Because Butte is close to home, and many of our relatives still live there, it was an easy choice for our second color selection and “Silver City” was born.
Butte was touted as the “richest hill on earth,” when it was the nation’s largest single source of silver in the late 19th century and the largest source of copper until the 1930’s. Following the development of electricity, the demand for copper increased and really spiked during World War I, when copper was used in every single rifle bullet. It is estimated that Butte supplied around one-third of the copper for the United States in the late 1800’s and the early part of the 1900’s.
This early and extreme wealth gave Butte a singular history and destiny. Butte politicians dominated the state for 50 years. Until 1960, Butte was Montana’s largest city. Butte was home to a wide mix of people—Irish, Poles, Italians, Slavs, Chinese, and others who formed cosmopolitan neighborhoods.
In 1879, a fire burned down the entire central business district. As a result the Butte city council passed a law that required all new buildings downtown to be built from brick or stone; most still stand today and give the city historic dignity. Many are on the National Register of Historic Places. A showpiece is the Butte-Silver Bow Courthouse, built in 1910 with more funds than used for the Capitol building in Helena.
In the mix of Butte’s prosperity was the Standard Oil Company, which purchased numerous mines and smelters and formed a conglomerate, called the Amalgamated Copper Mining Company in 1899 (soon known as the Anaconda Mining Company). The company got so big that by the late 1920’s it was the fourth largest company in the world—and by far the largest company in Montana.
During the 1930’s and 40’s, Butte continued to pour out tons of copper every day, but the Great Depression of the 1930’s led to less demand for the minerals and a loss in population. The decline of Butte accelerated in the 1950’s when the Anaconda Mining Company, to reduce the costs involved in the labor-intensive nature of underground mining, shifted to open strip mining. Thus, instead of tunneling down for the copper, entire hillsides (including two towns and countless homes) were instead simply removed. The toxic Berkeley Pit is the deepest open-pit copper mine in the world. The Anaconda Mining Company moved on to tap resources in S. America, leaving the area around Butte a Superfund Site.
But all is not lost as Butte turned negatives into positives. Recently research in the Berkeley Pit has led to the discovery of new fungal and bacterial species that can resist highly toxic compounds and help fight cancer. Around Silver Bow Creek numerous settling ponds were built to trap the metals, so they would not be washed downstream. Not only has this worked remarkably well in cleaning up the Clark Fork further downstream, it also allowed Butte to create some parks and pleasant walking and biking trails.
I have to say that for years I have been a fan of reclaimed barnwood. The character, the crevices, the weathered appearance, the saw marks, are all the reasons that I love reclaimed barnwood. But, I had the opportunity to see some Silver City Ghost Wood a while back, and to my surprise I found out that it was not reclaimed. But it had the character of reclaimed, it had the crevices of reclaimed, it had the weathered appearance of reclaimed, and it had the saw marks. I was truly blown away. Here was a product that captured the essence and beauty of reclaimed material, but without any wasted material, and with a quality and price that’s impossible to ignore. Job very well done.
Brent Simmons, North Carolina