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Preserved church paintings hold precious memories of Butte's lost neighborhoods

Posted at 10:19 AM, Dec 28, 2023
and last updated 2023-12-28 12:19:22-05

BUTTE — A few beautiful paintings are all that’s left of the Holy Savior Church in the old Butte neighborhood of McQueen. They were rescued just before the church was buried under tons of rock and rubble by the Anaconda Co. Former residents of the McQueen and Meaderville neighborhoods see the paintings as valuable relics of these former neighborhoods that are long gone and hopefully never forgotten.

“McQueen and Meaderville are special places that we wanted to make sure will never be forgotten,” said former McQueen resident Jim Michelotti.

A documentary called “Resurrecting Holy Savior” was shown recently at the Butte Public Archives about how Meaderville and McQueen were destroyed to make room for the Berkeley Pit.

“Lots of families were next-door neighbors, very close, and that was the difficult part of having the mining operations take over: all that was lost,” said Michelotti.

It’s still a painful memory for those who lost their childhood neighborhood all those years ago.

“There’s still remnants of a lot of the neighborhoods up on the hill here, which is great for them, but they can at least visit their neighborhood. Nobody from Meaderville or McQueen, we can’t visit our neighborhood,” said former McQueen resident Don Petritz.

Not all was lost. Before the Holy Savior Church was buried, two historic paintings known as the Resurrection and the Ascension were removed from the church. The archives took them over in 2010. Tom Holter is credited for saving the paintings.

“He should be—go straight to heaven, I guess. Yeah, I mean, I love these pictures and, to me, it opens the door for where you grew up and everything that happened,” said Michelotti.

The former McQueen residents hope to find a place to display these paintings for the public to see and remember what was lost.