Following the end of World War II, with the return of servicemen now looking for work, Butte underwent a shift in population from the Uptown to the Flats. In 1946, the Butte Development Association formed as a spontaneous idea to bring three community interests together – labor, business, and the public – to look at Butte’s economic outlook. With plenty of work to be had, but not enough suitable housing to support incoming workers, the Development Association purchased two large tracts of land on the Flats with the purpose of building over 200 new homes quickly and cheaply. The Federal Housing Act gave impetus to the program by approving a 24-year mortgage on FHA loans.
A tract with room for 31 homes was designated in the Grand Avenue Addition, and another tract for 175 homes was purchased between Massachusetts and Farragut Avenues, now known as “The Drives.”
The Development Association constructed a one-story, four-room test home at the corner of Locust Street and Carolina Avenue in the Grand Avenue Addition. Constructed of pumice block, the house had two bedrooms, one bathroom, living room, kitchen, garage, and utility rooms. The Montana Standard published weekly updates on the building progress as more homes were constructed. Everything culminated with Butte Housing Day on December 21, amid much fanfare.
The highlights of the day included a groundbreaking for the neighborhood that came to be known as “the Drives” and a drawing to determine the first four purchasers of new homes in the Grand Avenue addition. Significantly, E. S. McGlone, vice-president in charge of western operations for the ACM led the groundbreaking. Also noteworthy – the Kenwood Realty Company, an affiliate of the ACM, acted as the agent for the Butte Development Association. ACM was mining for ore profits below ground and real estate profits above ground.
Winners of the drawing to purchase the first four homes were Duncan Campbell, Jr, D. J. McLaughlin, Tom McGovern, and Matt J. Mooney. Campbell was an ad salesman for the Butte Daily Post; McLaughlin was a salesman for the Underwood Corporation, and McGovern was a meteorologist. Mooney was the only recipient who did not purchase a new home. Instead, it went to Jack McCaw, an owner of the Tru-Test Block Manufacturing Company. The company manufactured the pumice blocks used in the construction of the houses.
The Development Association, through the Kenwood Realty Company, sponsored more than three million dollars in new homes and rehabilitation projects, including rental housing for veterans. The Association did not limit its work to housing. By 1952, the organization secured the location of the Naval Armory in Butte, a new Civic Center, rights-of-way for new highways, updated and enforced ordinances, addressing the issue of “shabby shacks” in town, and worked to lower insurance rates and freight rates.
Photos from the Tim Sullivan Collection, PH089.