The Copper King Mansion: Victorian glamour in Butte, Montana
BUTTE, MT: The Copper King Mansion is an extraordinary restored Victorian edifice in the heart of Butte, Montana, and the former residence of copper baron William A. Clark. Built in 1884 and restored to perfection, it captures the elegance and glory of the boom town years of the early 1900’s when Butte had more than 100,000 citizens.
With 5 immaculately restored bedrooms, staying at the Copper King Mansion is like being immersed in the stunning beauty of the belle epoch era at the dawn of the 20th century. Every detail of the house is an incredible journey through the past.
Copper King Mansion: a historic past
The mansion is owned by Erin and Pat Sigl. It has been in their family since 1953. The Copper King Mansion combines the beauty of the Victorian age with the effervescent nature of an intimate family owned establishment. It is a genuine treasure of the past brought to life.
The Copper King Mansion stands like a grand red brick sentinel on Granite Street near the top of the center of Butte. 4 stories high, with a turreted centerpiece and a high towered crest. It looms over the center of town with a palpable sense of aristocracy.
While it is a renowned bed and breakfast, it is also a museum to the history of William A. Clark and the grandeur of Butte, Montana. Tours are conducted throughout the day, allowing visitors who are not staying at the Mansion to experience the exquisite nature of this grand residence.
The Copper King Mansion: a living Victorian museum
The entrance off the front porch leads to the stunning reception foyer. This gives just a glimpse of the grandeur to come. Dark woods are everywhere, with craftsmanship that simply doesn’t exist anymore. The effect is ethereally magnificent.
The reception area is an octagonal room with 15 foot ceilings painted with the original watercolor frescoes. Sumptuous glass chandeliers adorn every room. Adjacent gas jets are still attached, though inactive since 1925.
William A. Clark’s architectural legacy
The walls are covered with a unique combed plaster set. It is set against plaster reliefs painted with silver and gold fleck that lend a luminescent quality to the design.
When Clark had the house built, he spared no expense. Bringing in craftsmen and artisans from around the world. It shows in every stunning detail. From the rosewood parquet floors to the gorgeous design of each and every room.
The Billiard room is a sprawling space. Watercolor frescoes cover the ceiling with wood carvings on the mantle depicting billiards. Just off the main entrance, it is infused with eloquent grandeur.
Copper King Mansion: elegance and atmosphere
The dining room is gorgeous. Filled with precious antiques and the air of a salon. It leads to the grand sitting room at the front of the house. A hand woven Persian rug from the early 1900’s tells the history of Butte in historical scenes woven into the carpet.
The stunning staircase of polished hardwood leads to the second floor and the guest bedrooms. Ornate 12 foot stained-glass windows shimmer on the landing halfway up the stairs.
The second floor includes the Family Suite with twin sleigh beds, Huguette’s and Andree’s gorgeous rooms from the 1917 addition, and a small Butlers room. The library across from the master suite is a magnificent chamber filled with momentos of the last 100 years.
Copper King Mansion: The Master Suite
The master suite is the former quarters of William A Clark himself. The carved wooden sleigh bed is a work of art. Its intricate headboard is inset under a carved alcove. The ornamental woodwork rises almost to the top of the 15 foot ceilings.
The room is largely intact from when Clark lived here. An ornate fireplace fills the wall opposite the bed. A framed portrait of Clark set above it. His original couch adorns the adjacent sitting room.
The sitting room in the master suite is even more stunning. An octagonal chamber with sweeping décor under tall ceilings. It is the mirror image of the reception room just below it. Large windows overlook the town of Butte stretching out below it with snow-capped mountains in the distance.
The legacy of William A. Clark
William A Clark was a remarkable man. At the turn of the century was one of the richest men in America. With an estimated fortune of $50,000,000 in 1920. That is the equivalent of billions today.
Originally from Pennsylvania, he came to Butte in search of silver and gold. But the dawn of electricity would mean boom times for copper. Clark snapped up a series of worn out gold and silver claims and started mining for copper. He built the first smelters in Butte. Built a railroad from Los Angeles to Salt Lake City. And owned a sugar company and oil wells in Los Angeles.
William A. Clark: A man of many accomplishments
By 1900 Butte was a boom town for copper. Its population swelled to 100,000 citizens. The railroad Clark built needed a watering stop for the trains. So he bought an old Mormon mission in Nevada. That mission became the little hamlet of Las Vegas.
Today Las Vegas, Nevada is situated in Clark County, named for William A. Clark.
Clark was intimately involved in the growth of Butte. He built a 68-acre amusement park called Columbia Gardens, with rollercoasters and a racetrack, on the edge of town. Clark sponsored homes for widows and orphans. Provided college educations for the children of any of his miners that died in accidents or as a result of ill health and black lung.
He started the largest copper wire factory in the country in New Jersey. As electrification spread from the east coast across America his fortunes rose with it.
Senator Clark, a Mansion in New York, a collector of fine art
He eventually built mansions in New York on 5th Ave, in Los Angeles, and his daughter Huguette famously built one in Santa Barbara. He had 6 children with his first wife and 2 more with his second wife.
Clark collected fine art. Owning a plethora of works by Millet, Degas, Titian, Daumier, Delacroix, Corot, Fantin-Latour, and sculptures by Rodin. Among many other pieces.
His collection was so vast that after his death a whole wing of the Corcoran Museum in Washington DC was built to hold his collection. It now resides in the National Gallery of Art, on the National Mall in DC alongside America’s other art treasures.
Clark served as a US Senator from 1901 – 1907 representing Montana. He died in 1925 in New York City, leaving a vast fortune to his heirs. In 2011 his surviving daughter Huegette died in New York at the age of 101.
She had spent her last 20 years in a hospital surrounded by her dolls, and being taken advantage of by her staff and associates. The tragic story of Hugette is a colorful footnote to the original legacy of the Clark family.
The modern history of the Copper King Mansion
The Copper King Mansion was sold to the owner of a meatpacking company for a decade or so. Then it was sold to the Catholic Diocese of Butte. For the next 20 years it was the home to a convent of nuns. The mother superior slept in Clark’s suite.
In 1953 it was sold again to the Anneleise Cote who used it as a boarding house and restaurant. Her daughter Anne turned it into a bed and breakfast in 1987. Then she tried to recollect the original holdings and furniture that were sold after William Clarks death.
The Sigl family: keepers of the flame
They have done a remarkable job of preserving the integrity of the mansion while restoring a good deal of its original furnishings. Today Erin Sigl, her husband Pat, her brother John and daughter Marie run the mansion with a reverence for its history. They maintain a beautiful sensibility for how truly special the Copper King Mansion is.
Hotel receptionist and tour guide Sonya Blevins gives an exceptional and magnificently detailed tour of the house. Including the third floor of the house which at one time was Clark’s ballroom, and was the gymnasium for the convent.
A night in the Copper King Mansion
A night in the master suite at Copper King Mansion is an immersion into Victorian America in all its grandeur. Opulently magnificent. It is a chance to indulge the lifestyle and elegance of the copper king of Butte with all its glory intact.
There are no televisions or cable, although internet and wifi is available. This is a chance to experience life in a slower vein. To indulge in the opulence of a time 100 years in the past. To be immersed in a special moment in time transcendently preserved for future generations.
A delicious home cooked breakfast is served in the morning in the elegant dining room by Erin’s daughter Marie. The personalized attention to detail and homey atmosphere in the midst of the elegant dining room is delightful. It a chance to reflect on the history of the Mansion and the man who made it all possible.
Copper King Mansion: the next generation
Now the 5th generation is prepared to take over the legacy of the Copper King Mansion. Anneleise and Elisabeth Lloyd, Anneliese Cote’s great great granddaughters, already work as tour guides.
The generational love for the Mansion and the history it represents assures that the Copper King Mansion will be a family enterprise far into the future.
It is a symbol of the renaissance of Butte. The cornerstone of the restoration of a square mile historical district. The largest in the country. It is the reflection of a time when Copper was king, and Montana played a critical role in the electrification of America.
Most of all it is the preservation of the heritage of this city, and the man who made it all possible. William A. Clark would be proud of the what the Sigl’s have done with his mansion and legacy.
The Copper King Mansion is a beacon on the hill that shines a light on the best the Big Sky country of Montana has to offer.
The Copper King Mansion www.thecopperkingmansion.com 406 782 7580
Joel Berliner is a travel writer based in Los Angeles. @JoelBerliner
All Photos by Alison Reynolds. @BigAlPeoplesPal