Devoid of people today, Coolidge ghost town was once a vibrant town full of silver deposits. Plenty of derelict buildings now mirrors how far Montana’s largest silver development site has fallen.
The town may be without a living soul, but it might have wandering spirits from the past. An afternoon walk with ghosts is not a far-fetched idea when visiting.
Located in south Butte, Coolidge was created by William R. Allen, a Lieutenant Governor who served Montana in 1908.
In 1913, Allen quit politics and turned to a prospector. He formed the Boston-Montana Development Corporation and bought about 80 mining claims in the region.
With the help of monied friends, Allen managed to build the Montana Southern Railway. This narrow-gauge line linked the Elkhorn Mine and the town of Divide and was completed in 1919.
With the railway in place, he managed to transport heavy equipment to build a giant mill. Allen created a camp near the mill to house millers and miners.
He named the camp Coolidge to honor his friend and rumored co-investor, Calvin Coolidge.
The camp transformed into a tiny mining town when log structures replaced tents. As the number of residents increased, a restaurant, a boarding house, and a company store cropped up.
By 1922, Coolidge boasted a post office, a school, a pool hall, a power line, and telephone services.
At its prime, Coolidge had an estimated population of 350. Unlike other mining towns, it lacked a saloon and a church.
Coolidge’s downfall was as fast as its ascendancy. In 1923, silver prices took a nosedive, placing the mill in great trouble. Subsequently, Allen lost his affluence.
Any hopes of a resurgence were blown away in 1927 when the Pettingill Dam burst and destroyed a vital bridge. The bridge’s repair in 1930 coincided with the Great Depression. By 1932, the town was abandoned as people sought better pastures.
Despite losing his fortune, Allen continued clinging to the Elkhorn Mines with the hope of a change in tide. He held onto this elusive wish until his demise in 1953.
Today, Coolidge ghost town is a lonely place in Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest that the Bureau of Land Management oversees.
Coolidge Ghost Town Main Attractions
Coolidge is a shadow of its mining days. A handful of remaining buildings sit in the woods, fighting losing battles against nature.
It’s safe to say Coolidge is a pure ghost town. Since its demise, the area has never been renovated or preserved.
Tyro house is perhaps the only building in Coolidge not to have suffered extensive damage. This building offered residency to Fran Tyro, a postmaster who served Coolidge’s post office between 1922 to 1932.
Although damaged, you can still explore the interior of this house.
Other attractions in Coolidge Ghost Town include:
- Dilapidated cabins – Winters must have been bitter in these log structures
- Ruins of an ice house – Walls were filled with sawdust
- Remains of a school
- Log rubbles
Mill remains are not accessible due to safety issues.
Coolidge isn’t accessible by car. Visitors have to hike a one-mile, slightly uneven trail to arrive at this ghost town.
The pin-drop silence and giant trees on both sides of the trail create a spooky atmosphere. As you walk, you can spot squirrels hunting for nuts.
Learn Montana’s History
A visit to this ghost town is a wander back to Treasure State’s mining era. It’s hard to envisage how people called this isolated land home.
Enjoy Scenic Views
Cabin ruins aren’t the only attraction in Coolidge. Nature reigns supreme here. The lush trees, surrounding mountains, and pristine creek waters transform the scenery of this area.
Coolidge is located on the Pioneer Scenic Byway. En route, enjoy the rugged peaks, alpine meadows, and other stunning views Big Sky Country offers.
- Soak at Elkhorn Hot Springs
- Hunt for crystals at Crystal Park
- Snowmobile in the Upper Big Hole Valley
- Ski at the Maverick Mountain
You won’t find any accommodation facility in Coolidge Ghost Town. That said, there are plenty of lodging options and vacation rentals in the neighboring Wise River and Polaris.
Below are worthwhile places to stay when visiting Coolidge.