The late 19th century discovery and development of silver mines high in the Granite Mountains changed the course of this part of the Pintler route. The Granite Mountain mines yielded one of the biggest silver strikes in all of Montana, creating both the mountain mining town of Granite and a bit farther down on the mountain’s edge the town of Philipsburg, which by 1893 served as the seat for the new county of Granite.
The U.S. Forest Service’s rather weathered and beat-up sign marks the historic entrance to the mining town of Granite, located at over 7,000 feet in elevation above the town of Philipsburg. During the 1984-85 state historic preservation plan work Granite was the focal point. The office knew of the latest collapse of Miners Union Hall (1890) turning what had been an impressive Victorian landmark into a place with three walls and lots of rubble–it remains that way today.
Miners Union Hall was one of two National Register landmarks in Granite. The other was the massive stone Superintendent’s House, which Montana State Parks has stabilized, adding hopefully decades to its life, but so much else of the town is nothing but a historical archaeological site, a fate held by the old bank, Catholic Church, the California House, and a score of other significant buildings.
The drive to Granite can be harrowing for the novice but affords great scenic views of the mountains plus multiple deteriorating mining sites.
Connecting the Granite road to the town of Philipsburg, today as in the past, is the site of the Bi-Metallic Mill, which is still in limited use today compared to the mining hey-day.
The mines around Philipsburg are not as important as they were during my early 1980s visits, and population began to drop from the steady number of approximately 1100 the town had held for decades to just over 800 by 2010. But in this decade, population is growing again, and historic preservation and heritage tourism are playing key roles in the revival of fortunes, as the next post will explore.