Wednesday, May 14, 2014

The Mother's Day Mansion and Mining Adventure

We've had a bit of a crazy week (now almost two as this has taken me forever to post!) where incidentally double-booked myself to plan/host two big events.  The first was a teddy bear picnic, where we realized we only had one teddy bear in the house, so Georgeasaurus came too!
 Matthew was super helpful as I tried to take a pic of both kiddos of course:
Next up I hosted a Mother's Day craft day for fellow moms to make gifts for their mothers or themselves and for the kiddos to make things for their moms or grandmas.  The kiddos made some cute things some of which are making their way to Virginia so I won't spoil the surprise yet!  *knock on wood* The kids have been very understanding about my hosting of these events and are super patient when I'm off helping other kids and moms or setting-up/tearing-down.  It's kinda fun to get back in the mode of informal education planning and I while I love giving back by volunteering my time for these things, I would be lying if I didn't have a twinge of "remember when you used to get paid to do these things" in the back of my head.  

Also, we managed to hit the library twice this week which is highly unusual.  I love our library to pieces but we NEVER make it there as often as I'd like!   First, we hit up the library to pick up some book club books and managed to hit story time and make some clouds and worms.  Then it was screen free week so Matthew's favorite library computer games were turned off so he worked on this puzzle instead and was so proud to mostly finish it by himself.
 Then we headed back to check out PercOrchestra, an all percussion group from the symphony.  Catherine was an enthusiastic audience member and the performance was awesome!  Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately), it was an all male ensemble so every time Catherine says she wants to be a drummer, Matthew tells her its just for boys.  I'm definitely torn between letting this slide so I don't have to be the parent of a drummer and finding a rocking girl ensemble to take her to!

Our big excitement this week was our upcoming Mother's Day trip.  It all started when I snagged a copy of Empty Mansions from our library.  The story of Huguette Clark was followed by our local paper a little more closely than the rest of the world for the past few years as most of Huguette's money was made by her father about 90 miles away from us.  However, there were always big question marks in our minds as the AP stories contained very few details.  The themes of the headlines were of Huguette being reclusive and out of the public's eye for nearly 60 years, her nurse being a potential gold-digger and her family claiming her will void due to her incompetency.   Oh yeah, and of course there were some tantalizing mentions about her having a boatload of money, houses and fine furnishings (hello 4+ Stradivarius instruments!).   When I came across this book I was hoping it would elaborate and fill in the details the AP stories missed and it did not disappoint.
As I read the book, I began to put together that Clark's childhood home was a mansion I had seen on some tourist list for Butte.  I figured at some point I'd love to make a day of visiting the mansion.  Upon further investigation I discovered it was a bed and breakfast and we could make a night of it as well!  James indulged my mild obsession with the story and we booked a trip to Butte for Mother's day weekend to stay at the Copper King Mansion.  We headed out Saturday morning, but before we could check into the house we first hit up the World Museum of Mining.  

In one of those odd, western museum type situations, the first room you come to is an entire doll collection, complete with dolls from every sitcom imaginable.  It was a collection from a top donor and volunteer that takes on an odd prominence in a museum of mining.   
 Then again, it wouldn't be a trip to Butte without some weird dolls.   The next part was the kids favorite part of the trip as we checked out the "glow in the dark" rocks.
 The kids hit these up at least 3 times throughout our visit!  What I didn't realize before we headed out was the bulk of the museum was outside, consisting of an old town where you could look through a lot of windows.  Considering it was mid-May and sunny when we left, we were definitely underprepared to spend the whole day out in wet and windy snow fall!  Here was part of the "town":

This was probably one of the better organized fake old west towns we've visited, but peering in windows of buildings with a hodge podge of old things in them is starting to feel old an unhelpful. Then again, we live in the heart of these types of "museums" and I used to be overly involved in one so maybe I'm biased.  Unfortunately, the kiddos were too young for us to hit the underground mine tour which is the gem of this museum.  Maybe this fall I'll go back with Matthew!  They did have this cool old fire truck, where it was implied it was likely never used because it couldn't handle the hills of Butte!
This was a new one for an old mining town, complete with paper mache cabbage!  Makes sense considering the ethnic make up of Butte and most Western mining towns.

 The kiddos enjoyed the old school swing set.  It's amazing to think this was the first time they'd ever experienced a flat, board style swing!

The kids were real troopers considering the temps so after this we headed into the gift shop to cuddle and warm up and watch a movie on Butte.  
Back outside the kids hit up the trains:

And tested out an old roller coaster car:
There was an exhibit about mining that included this very important piece of equipment!
One of the headframes had a ladder put in so we could climb to the top (notice the blowing snow!):

 And view the awkward mining equipment strewn around the grounds!  There was a lot we missed but with cold bitter winds and without any clear direction of where to go and what was junk vs. an exhibit we decided it was time to cut our losses.  The museum grounds have a ton of potential but appear to lack some clear vision with regards to being self-guided.  I'm hoping my review changes when we can take the guided tour (and maybe when it's a bit warmer!)
We then headed to check out Joe's Pastys for our first pasty, a staple of Butte leftover from the mining era.  James enjoyed his enough that he ordered another pasty for lunch as we headed out the next day. The kiddos chose hot cocoa for themselves to warm up!
 Since it was cold and snowy, our plan of hitting up parks was out so we decided to check out their YMCA.  I was super impressed by the facilities, especially for little kids, and the kids had a blast!  Unfortunately, Catherine picked up a case of swimmer's ear too, but at least it wasn't a full blown ear infection and we've gotten her back to just complaining about all the owies on her hands and legs!
With two exhausted kiddos, we made our way to the Clark Mansion.  One of the fascinating points of the book was the Clark Mansion built in New York City that was built to be so ostentatious it was assessed as nearly worthless and torn down shortly after Clark's death.  Clark's Butte mansion may not have been extravagant to the level of his New York home, but it was gorgeous and excessive!   I had a heck of a time with the lighting so pardon some of the odd orange coloring:

And looking back into the entry:
All the chandeliers and fixtures in the house were original as the house was one of the first this side of the Mississippi to have electric power (though the chandeliers also ran off gas as well).  Clark's access to large amounts of copper and owning his own electric company probably helped!  The entry fireplace:

 And grand staircase:
 Each of the carvings on the stairs represents a bird or plant from a different nation:

When we returned from dinner that evening, a very exhausted Catherine (with swimmer's ear) threw a very comical tantrum where she insisted she was going to sleep on the stairs.  This was by far the most beautiful place she's ever thrown a tantrum!
The house tour was great and there was a good combination of oddities and grandeur.  This was an original multi-head shower.  If and when we go back, I must try it out!  
 The kiddos got to sit on a horsehair couch:
 The doll room (all the walls of the room were lined with them!):
 Up close of the copper detailing:
 Close-up of the plaster work.  In "our" bathroom there were all kinds of designs "hidden" in the plaster work!
When the home was sold out of the Clark family, the house was cleared of most all of the furnishings.  However, most of the beauty of the house is in the woodwork, fireplace mantles and frescos in the ceiling.  The mansion changed hands a few times and was mostly outfitted by the grandmother of the current owners, outfitted in antiques from the early 1900s.  They have even been able to get a few pieces back that were original to the mansion.  This was left in our room for warming the beds which we certainly didn't need.  Later in talking to the owner I discovered that the extra door in our room was indeed to the panic room that Clark had at one point. For better or worse, it was taken out to facilitate a new heat vent so our room and beds were warm without this contraption :-)

 This was the bathroom in our room where you can see examples of the ornate woodwork and plaster:
 Our room for the night:
The kiddos enjoyed the bath!
 The fresco and chandelier we woke up to:
Our fancy Mother's Day breakfast:
 Another gorgeous chandelier:

 I have a ton more pictures but really you have to see it for yourself!  Our room rate included the hour-long guided tour of the home and a nice breakfast which made it a steal!  One of the greatest parts of course was visiting with the owner over breakfast!  She has a real passion for the house and its history!  Matthew came with me to take pics outside:
Even the details on the outside were fantastic!
 Matthew mostly just enjoyed Butte's hilliness!  I will say, the home is FULL of antiques which made our stay with kiddos a bit more daunting than a stay at Motel 6!  Tiring the kiddos out helped immensely as well as sending them out to run the hills when they got a little overactive.

Once we packed up we decided to head to the Granite Mine Memorial.  It was a very nice tribute to the miners in Butte who lost their lives in the Granite Mine incident as well as all the miners who had lost their lives in Butte.

 There were flags displayed from each country of origin for the miners lost:
 I thought it was neat the whole thing was made with core samples:
 The memorial sits on reclaimed land amidst old head frames from some of the old mines.  There is an extensive trail system that might be more fun to explore on a slightly warmer day.  The memorial also affords a good view of much of the active mining that is still going on:
After having driven around, the kids became pretty proficient at spotting Butte's M.  As most of Butte's other tourist attractions we hadn't hit were closed on Sunday or still closed for the winter we thought adding another "M" to our hiking list could work.  Once we found out how to get to it, we discovered it's not as pretty up close (mostly because I think it's wired for lighting):
 However, both kiddos did it all by themselves:
 Catherine was pretty proud!  She's still probably a year from doing the M in Bozeman on her own but this was a good pre-season start!
 It also wasn't a shabby place to overlook Butte:
 We ended our trip with one last meal at a fun little cafe.  They had an upper balcony so when Matthew and James went to the bathroom, Catherine and I snuck upstairs to surprise them.  It's adorable how much fun surprises are at this age!
 So of course Matthew had to sneak up and do the same:
 It was old and adorable yet slightly run down just like the rest of Butte, a perfect place to end another set of Butte explorations!

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