Eteläkarjalainen maisema

Eteläkarjalainen maisema
Tässä blogissa on sekä kuvia että tarinoita upean Etelä-Karjalan luonnosta, ihmisistä ja kulttuurista. Kuvassa syyskuinen näkymä Saimaan kanavan varrelta.

maanantai 10. marraskuuta 2014

Finntown in Butte, Montana

An abandoned sign of Finn Town

I've made altogether four trips to the Rocky Mountains area. Some years ago I visited one the most famous mining towns there, Butte, Montana. In the end of 19th century Butte was given a nickname ”The Richest Hill on the Earth”. I tried to find Butte Finntown, and get information about local Finnish American past.

This town had very significant Finnish population, in 1893 estimated number was 400, later  it climbed up to  3000 - 4000 inhabitants. Finnish American singer Hiski Salomaa mentions in his well known song Lännen lokari "Piutin = Butte" among the other major Finnish American towns and areas. City's East Side community was dominated by Finnish and Swedish people. This part of town was called Finn Town or Finntown and it roughly included the area east of Arizona Street, and with Granite, Broadway and Park streets. It was an interesting little community and a busy neighborhood. In the 1920s it housed twelve saloons, six grocery stores, eighteen boarding houses, a community hall, and three saunas. Finns were relative latecomers to Butte, arriving in big numbers around 1910. The Finns were very supportive of each other and helped each other adapt to their new lives.  For example The Broadway Dining Room and Boarding House, run by Mrs. Riipi, was said to serve up to 600 meals a day to Finnish miners. Local Finns were mainly union people, leaning to the left. Only a few of them were religious. There were two Finnish Lutheran churches in Butte, the Evangelical Lutheran with 21 paying members in 1925, and the Apostolic Lutheran, which was even smaller. The later had it's church at 615 Park Street.

One of the remaining buildings in former Butte Finntown
Today, most of Finntown is gone. It was one of the small ethnic communities engulfed by the Berkeley Pit when the open pit mining operation began in 1955. However, one remnant of Finntown, the Helsinki Bar, still remains in uptown Butte. The Helsinki was built in the 1890s and was operated by Margaret Dalton as a boarding house. However, by 1906, Hilda Nurmi managed the boarding house, the first of several Finnish proprietors. By 1911, the property boasted that treasured Finnish institution: the sauna. Here, for twenty-five cents, Finns bathed, socialized, and renewed their connection to their homeland. In 1915, the baths were open from three to midnight, with Fridays reserved for ladies. In 1937, John Niemi opened a beer parlor here; it later became the Corner Bar, then the Helsinki.  Today, the Helsinki Bar and Steam Bath stands alone, a potent reminder of the once vibrant Finnish neighborhood.

I found in the Finnish American Reporter Dave Maki's article about Butte's Finntown:
Finntown's last stand (February 2007)
Maki had interviewed Helsinki Bar's longtime owner Erv Niemi. Niemi told, that despite of strong Finnish population,  none of local bars had a Finnish name. When Erv Niemi took over family business (1954) from his father, he changed Corner Bar to Helsinki Bar. Int the 80's Niemi brought a traditon from his native state of Minnesota. He introduced the St. Urho's Day celebration to Butte. This tradition still continues. As the years passed Butte's Finntown shrank from a thriving neighborhood to little more than a chapter in Butte History books. But The Helsinki Bar is still standing...

Helsinki Bar backdoor
The legend of St. Urho is every year it celebrated on March 16 in Butte and an honorary St. Urho is crowned. More recently, also a woman of Finnish descent has been crowned LadyUrho.
 Here you can read more about Finns in Butte in Montana Standard
and  here you can see  PBS Independent Lens' Documentary Butte, America

A view over former Finntown area in Butte
Butte downtown in the 50's

Butte downtown in the 50's

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