Butte’s Mother Lode Theater, built in 1924, has all the glitz and grandeur of a classic playhouse from the golden age of entertainment — but it lacks one important thing.
“It does not have an adequate fire suppression system. It’s been a big concern of our fire marshal. It’s a building that gets used and it has high occupancy at times, so it’s very important that it’s safe,” said Butte Historic Preservation Officer Mary McCormick.
Butte is applying for a Montana Department of Commerce grant to try and get up to $500,000 for a fire suppression and alarm system.
Officials believe the theater fits the criteria for the grant because of the building’s economic value to the state.
“We’ve got local employees working there, we’re bring in shows from out of state and from around the region, you know, and that all trickles down to the local economy, supporting local restaurants and hotels and things like that,” said Butte grant writer Shelly Cleverly.
Keeping the building up to code and open is not only important economically, it’s important culturally because the Mother Lode Theater is an iconic structure significant to the history of Butte.
“It’s a beautiful building inside and out, and I think when people go to the Mother Lode and they sit in that theater and they look around, they’re just in awe and it’s an inspiring place,” said McCormick.
It could take the city at least six months to learn if it will get the grant, and city officials say the theater will remain open for business as the city seeks funding for the new system.