Montana’s Granite County was first established in 1893 during the mining boom era that saw many towns and districts appearing. The name itself comes from a granite mountain which was the location of the silver mine that played a part in the development of the region, and the historical roots of the county are much in evidence today.
The mostly rural region of Granite County is to the south of Missoula, and the county seat is Philipsburg, while the other towns that come within the boundaries of the county are Drummond and Hall.
The Philipsburg region of Granite County is also well-known for sapphires, which is another nod to the prosperity of the area and is now a tourist attraction. The famous Scenic Byway is also nearby and leads into the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest, part of which is in Granite County.
The mining boom that put the Granite County region of Montana on the map is long gone, and these days tourism has a major hand in supporting the local economy. Philipsburg’s Broadway Street is a major attraction with its unique architecture along with various museums, gem stores, ice cream stores, pubs, a craft brewery, and an RV Park.
Visit the Granite County Government website.
Special Events in Granite County
- July – Philipsburg Heritage Days
- July – Drummond PRCA Annual Rodeo
- Aug – Arts Fest Philipsburg
- Dec – Festival of Trees
Main Attractions in Granite County
Granite County Museum & Cultural Center
The Granite County Museum & Cultural Center is situated in the grand and historic-looking Courtney Hotel building. The facility opened its doors in 1992 through the efforts of both donors and volunteers, after the whole of the first floor in the old hotel had been turned into museum display space.
The majority of the exhibits like articles of clothing, furniture, and other items from those days have been donated or loaned by local residents, and there is an additional community center and gift shop in the museum.
The museum exhibits photographs that give glimpses of the lives of miners, ranchers, and townspeople in the early days. There is a Pioneer Life exhibit on the lower level featuring various everyday life artefacts from more than 100 years ago.
Another section of the museum is related to the Granite Mountain Mining exhibit, a 4,000 square foot area that includes an underground mining tour as well as exhibits of early mining equipment.
Granite Ghost Town State Park
Nearly 20 ghost towns are within 30 miles of Philipsburg, including Granite Ghost Town State Park, which is within 3 miles. This ghost town contains relics of a town that once boomed after silver was discovered in the late 19th century when a prospector by the name of Holland discovered the Granite Mine.
It turned out to be the richest silver mine on the earth at the time. The mine was relocated a few years later, but once the ‘silver panic’ of 1893 set in, word came to shut the mine down, and the area remained deserted for three years.
Today the remains of what was once a profitable camp are managed by the state park, and you can still see the Granite Mine Superintendent’s house and the old miners’ Union Hall. These semi-dilapidated buildings are listed in the Historic American Buildings Survey.
The Philipsburg Theater is the oldest operational theater in Montana, having first been established in 1891 when it was known as the McDonald Opera House. Needless to say, this place has put on its fair share of shows.
Thanks in part to various restoration projects over the years, the Opera House Theatre has an appearance today much the same as it would have been over a hundred years ago. Various film festivals throughout the year are hosted here, although the main attraction at this historic venue is the live performances. The shows include stage acting to comedic showcases and vaudeville-style that include musical talent.
Just a few miles down the road from Philipsburg is Georgetown Lake, a reservoir of Flint Creek. There are several beaches around the reservoir as well as campsites that are operated and managed by the US Forest Service.
With the Anaconda Range to the east of the lake, this is a scenic spot in the great outdoors surrounded by mountain peaks that serve as a great getaway for a half or full-day.