Let's Talk, Butte! with Pat Munday of the Mai Wah

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Butte Selected as one of 20 Main Street Communities in National Partners in Preservation Competition; only Montana Project

Butte, Montana has been awarded an honored spot in the competition among 20 Main Street communities across the country to showcase historic preservation projects worthy of public support through the latest round of Partners in Preservation.

American Express and the National Trust for Historic Preservation, in collaboration with Main Street America announced today that their annual Partners in preservation campaign is headed back to Main Street with a focus on sites that celebrate diversity and the fight for equality.

Partners for Preservation is a community-based partnership, created by the National Trust for Historic Preservation and American Express, to raise awareness of the importance of preserving historic places and their role in sustaining local communities. To date, it has committed over $22 million in support of more than 200 historic sites across the country. Drawing on the success of the 2017 program, this year the campaign will award $2 million in grants to historic sites on America's Main Streets. Each of the 20 sites featured in the campaign played a role in the development of a diverse nation or the struggle for equal rights.

Partners in Preservation: Main Streets seeks to inspire long-term support fron local citizens for sites on Main Street. The public will decide which historic sites will receive a share of the $2 million in preservation funding by voting for their favorite main streets through October 26 at VoteYourMainStreet.org (Butte and Montana supporters can vote directly at voteyourmainstreet.org/Butte), hosted by media partner National Geographic. Winners will be announced on October 29.

From September 24 through October 26, vote every day, early and often, for up to five historic preservation projects that you deem to be the best and most worthy of support. Top vote getters will receive up to $150,000 in funding to support a bricks and mortar project to preserve and restore historic buildings in their Main Street community.

Voting is free and simple. Just visit http://www.voteyourmainstreet.org/butte and vote each day through October 26.

The only Montana Partners in Preservation project this year is in Butte and focuses on the diversity and inclusion represented by the work to preserve the Mai Wah and Wah Chong Tai Buildings in what was once Butte's Chinatown. In the late 1800s, Butte thrived as an industrial metropolis built on fabulous fortunes generated by copper mining.

A thriving Chinatown of nearly 2,500 Asian residents flourished within the larger city. From 1895 until the 1930s, Asian entrepreneurs operated dozens of different businesses in Butte. The 1914 Butte city directory listed 62 Chinese businesses, including four physicians who practiced herbal medicine. A Chinese Baptist Mission ministered to the Christian population within Chinatown. Organized efforts to evict the Butte Chinese were mounted in the 1880s and the 1890s.

Rather than leave, however, Chinese businessmen protested to the governments of China and the United States and filed suit against the leaders of the boycotts. They won their case in court but they were unable to collect damages, which they estimated to be about $500,000 dollars in lost business between 1888 and 1901.

Today, only a handful of buildings remain as evidence of Chinese immigration and assimilation anywhere in the West. Rare testaments to this history have been preserved in Butte -- the adjoining Mai Wah and Wah Chong Tai buildings, which have been converted into a museum to preserve and interpret the Asian influences on the settlement of Montana and the Rocky Mountain West.

The Mai Wah Society is a non-profit organization established to preserve and interpret the heritage represented by these buildings. Interpretive displays and exhibits are open from June to October. Details about the Mai Wah Society are available at their web site at http://www.maiwah.org or on facebook at maiwahmuseum.

To vote daily to help preserve and restore these buildings for the next century, visit www.voteyourmainstreet.org/butte. Return once a day to cast a vote to help preserve these buildings and Butte's historical treasures each day through October 26.

For more information about Butte's Main Street program, visit www.mainstreetbutte.org or on Facebook at uptownbutte.