Friday, October 5, 2012

Friday Photo: Quartz Street Fire Station

Butte’s Quartz Street Fire Station has a past that refuses to be forgotten. Built in 1900, the station housed twenty-two men, Chief Peter Sanger, and his family. Sanger’s first wife Margaret died in the family’s apartment in 1904. He remarried in 1908, and his second wife, Louisa, like Margaret before her, took up a post by the window where she watched for her husband’s safe return. In January 1915, Sanger’s truck collided with a Walkerville streetcar en route to an alarm. Hundreds attended his funeral at the station. After several more generations of firefighters had come and gone, the station became the Butte–Silver Bow Public Archives in 1981. Traces of its past include a wall of long-disconnected alarm boxes installed by Chief Sanger. Archivists and volunteers can tell you that they have heard the disconnected alarm bells clang as if the firemen never left. After the building has closed and darkness edges in, some say you can hear the men banter back and forth, reenacting scenes played out in the past hundreds of times. One late afternoon the building was empty, and the director was out in the parking lot. She was certain she saw an older woman gazing out the east window, drying her hands on a dish towel. Some time later a photograph of Louisa Sanger came to light. She was standing in the same window, drying her hands on a dish towel, gazing out to the street.

From Spirit Tailings: Ghost Tales from Virginia City, Butte, and Helena
Original photo from Butte-Silver Bow Public Archives
Recent major renovations have erased the tangible elements of the former station. Time will tell if the work has erased the spirits, too.

From Montana Moments: History on the Go

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