#98 Finlen Hotel in Butte, MT
The Fine Finlen!
There is something eerie and wonderful about this grand hotel in the heart of uptown Butte.
Don and I were pretty delighted when we spotted the building and roof sign, high on the hill. There was no need for Mapquest, we just let the car head upwards through the curious city... towards that fine sign!
Right Here Since 1889!
Well, this building wasn't here that long ago, but the old McDermott hotel was built on the spot in 1889. James Finlen bought the hotel in 1902. By the 1920's Butte was booming with over 100,000 people.
By 1923, Finlen had grander ideas and tore down the old hotel to make way for this 9-story beauty. Since Don knows a thing or two about roofs, he was most impressed with the copper shingled roof, crowning this French Second Empire style hotel.
I love historic hotels, but I also am a fan of retro motels. So, how fun that a 32-room motor inn was added to the complex in the 1950's.
Some would find the combination odd, but I appreciate all kinds of hotel & motel history. I loved the sleek bi-level structure built around the convenient parking lot.
Butte has suffered the woes of many mining towns. Many of their gorgeous, historic buildings need some tending. Luckily the Tarras Family knew a good thing and bought the hotel in 1979.
They have done my favorite kind of renovation, which means you can still feel the history when you walk in. The lobby with chandeliers and copper leaf columns was pretty stunning.
The modern furniture and the mirrored Coffee Shop sign allowed me to imagine the hotel in the 1940's when there were 200 rooms at $2.50 each.
It was fun trying to picture Charles Lindbergh when he stayed, or JFK as a senator, staying as a guest, or Vice President Nixon.
I took a peek in the Treasure State Ballroom to see the crystal chandeliers hanging above the original maple dance floor.
Why don't I ever get invited to shindigs in places like this? Then I took the impressive staircase up to the second floor for a view of the lobby chandeliers.
A Different Look
I guess all chandeliers don't look the same. This made me want to learn more about the evolution of the chandelier.
The one thing I do know, is they are difficult to clean. I helped my mom once. It is not a fun chore.
The sitting area on the second floor allowed for a great view of the ritzy columns. I first got curious about columns in my high school Humanities class. I always liked the ionic style that reminded me of curled up cinamon rolls. (especially if I missed breakfast)
But the columns I remember viewing during those endless slideshows, were mostly stone ones from ancient Greece or Rome. Never once did I spot a column painted with copper leaf! I wouldn't want one in my house, but I loved being surrounded by them in the hotel.
We had elevator options, which was nice, since we were on the third floor. There are actually only two floors for hotel guests. The upper floors are now apartments. Don and I have stayed at a couple eerie hotels that have long term boarders.
There can be something uncomfortable about guests and residents sharing a building. But we pretty much didn't see anyone in the building at all, so no problems there. Unless being alone in a hotel makes you feel uneasy.
There are only 24 hotel rooms and we lucked out with 313A, which was a spacious 2-room suite.
For $115. we had a quiet corner room with fresh paint and carpet, microwave and fridge and TV. We had 4 windows in our 2 rooms and a total of 6 doors... which amused me.
The extra room, that we weren't expecting, was a little odd. This couch would have been handy had one of us suffered insomnia in the night and needed another room to read.
The small extra room had its own door to the hall and an odd closet, that held a sink. The bathroom was nothing special. No granite, or fancy fixtures but it was all grand luxury to us. We were on day 12 of a road trip and many of our stays had been at National Park lodges or historic inns, with odd and aged bathrooms.
Quite the View
One window had a view of the street below, with a few neon signs. But I loved the window, next to the fire escape.
In the day you could see the small city spread out below, with mountains in the distance. In the early morning, the lights twinkled like Christmas.
A Couple of Lounges
The main hotel entrance was on Broadway. Further down, the hotel had two more doors, to the Cavalier Lounge and the Copper Bowl. There was something intriguing and almost daring about retro lounge doors.
We hadn't quite figured out the uptown vibe yet. Was this area safe? Who might be the regulars at a bar like the Cavalier? As it turns out, the Copper Bowl is now a renovated art deco space, available for rent. We didn't get to have a peek. But the Cavalier was open for business.
So we gave the Cavalier some business.
What a hoot this place was with the green padded bar and sleek stools. Who knows when the last renovation was, but I found it pretty deluxe just as it was.
Martinis with a Sword
Sam, the bartender served us each a martini with a plastic sword and classic cocktail napkin. He even used the old cash register to make change. He told us he'd been working the bar for 10 years. I liked his pleasant relaxed manner.
He laughed when I asked what bartenders prefer being called these days. "I don't really care. Just don't call me a Mixologist!" He shook his head, "It's not rocket science back here." Sam went on to talk about his appreciation for the renovation of the old hotel. He talked about 9/11 (since it was September 11) and he talked about his concerns over latest clashes between police and youth. These weren't conversations that ever took place in this lounge in the 1940's or '50s.
The Finlen and Butte
It's important to note that when you stay at the Finlen, you get Butte right along with it. It didn't take long to feel comfortable.
I loved walking from the lobby, right onto Broadway. In less than 24 hours, we enjoyed 3 meals in historic restaurants. We visited the miner's memorial and we shopped at the Saturday market on Main Street. It's a town with huge potential and I hope more of the city can be renovated.
Initially I felt like The Finlen dominated the small city. Butte no longer seems large enough to support a grand hotel.
But in this photo, the hotel is clearly just a part of the curious old mining town. I will always remember our stay here as a mysterious mixture of hotel and town. There's something so intriguing about the history of this area and the hotel, that it just makes me keep asking questions. I'm so rooting for Butte and The Finlen! There's a lot worth preserving here!
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My New Year's Resolution for 2014 was to start documenting some of the memorable overnights I've had in some very odd and curious motels and hotels. Like the adventures in my Dining Blog, I have learned to enjoy the surprises that happen when you step out of the comfort zone, far away from the well-known chains.
I began with a few entries recalling my very first home away from home memories from my youth. Then, I started sharing about some of the quirky and unforgettable motels, hotels and inns that my husband and I have discovered in recent years.
The best part about this challenge was making some lists with Don and getting on the road in search of new overnight adventures. I gave myself a 2-year goal to write up 90 stories and the goal was met. Now we just keep on adding!