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World Museum of Mining working to restore historic Browns Gulch church

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BUTTE — An old church that once served the rural logging community of Browns Gulch northwest of Butte now sits at the World Museum of Mining, but it needs some restoration if they want to preserve this important piece of Butte history.

“We’re trying to keep all the original wood as we can and keep it as it stands and as it stood over 100 years ago,” said World Museum of Mining President Jeanette Kopf.

The St. Patrick’s Catholic Church first opened in Browns Gulch in 1922 and served as a church and schoolhouse for about 80 households of mainly immigrants from Eastern Europe.

“There was a large population of Catholics coming to the area through immigration and so the churches were popping up and Bishop Carroll from the Diocese of Helena thought it was important to make sure those people had a place of worship,” said Kopf.

Over the decades, the population in Browns Gulch dropped and the church closed. Wanting to preserve the church, a group moved it to the World Museum of Mining where it has remained on exhibit since 1976.

“Completely volunteer project bringing it here. Donated materials, there’s granite blocks that the church is currently sitting on, the labor was all donated,” Kopf said.

Museum officials say the church’s wall is starting to buckle and the building needs about $200,000 in restoration. This will include pouring a new foundation so the church can remain here for another 100 years.

“Butte just embraces its history and just adores its history and wants to preserve every bit of its history,” said Kopf.

A public meeting will be held at the museum to discuss the project on Feb. 27 at noon.