Anaconda over 100 years ago was a place of opportunity for laborers who wanted to gain a foothold in the Rocky Mountains through hard labor at the smelter, the pottery works, or the Butte, Anaconda, and Pacific Railroad. In a town dominated by the dictates and fortunes of the Anaconda Copper Company, Anaconda was a place where a respite from work was necessary–the last post looked at the range of recreation opportunities–but also a place where faith mattered, and still matters today.
Towering over the Goosetown neighborhood is the beautiful Gothic Revival styled St. Peter’s Austrian Roman Catholic Church, which is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Gleaming as a beacon for the hundreds of small one-story homes that surround it, the church is a statement building, from the Slavic community of turn of the 20th century Anaconda. Designed by local architect W. W. Hyslop and built in 1898, the church served the Croatian, Slovenian, and Montenegrin residents of Anaconda. Fr. John Pirnat convinced the diocese to allow the second church since St. Paul’s was dominated by the Irish community. Pirnat served as pastor for the next half century and his church hosted countless ethnic festivals, strengthened bonds of community within the Goosetown neighborhood.
Built about five years after St. Peter’s, the Zion Swedish Evangelical Lutheran Church is another Gothic Revival landmark, listed in the National Register of Historic Places, that represents the Swedish Lutheran community of Anaconda. With funding from the Swedish Mission Friends, the first frame church was finished in 1899 at a cost of $1600–but by 1904 came the new building with its substantial red brick facade and beautiful stained glass windows making the statement that the Lutherans were also here to stay.
The mainstream Protestant faiths were also represented by architectural landmarks such as the Romanesque red brick styling of the Methodist Church, the white frame cupola of the Presbyterian church located prominently on Main Street between the Washoe Theater and the Hearst Library, or the unique Castellated Gothic style of the First Baptist Church.
The craggy sandstone tower of St. Mark’s Episcopal Church is the town’s earliest religious architectural landmark, with the sanctuary dating to 1891. In 1978 t was among the first Anaconda landmarks to be listed in the National Register and remains one of the state’s most impressive examples of church architecture.
Anaconda also has interesting religious architecture from the middle decades of the 20th century, especially in the concrete screens that help to define the exterior of the Gateway Christian Church and the 1970s contemporary style of the Holy Family Catholic Church, part of the Anaconda Catholic Community along with St. Peters. Holy Family is located on West Pennsylvania Avenue on the other side of the tracks from the town’s historic railroad depot.
These are just a sampling of the old and new churches in Anaconda, and many are still to be explored. But the churches help to define neighborhoods to root the community in both past and present, especially so when new non-denominational Pentecostal congregations like Living Waters Revival Center take over older church buildings to use for their ministries today.