BUTTE — Butte’s icon Columbia Gardens amusement park closed nearly 50 years ago, but a Butte couple have a big dream to see it reimagined on land they own on the East Ridge.
“We are going to fulfill a dream we kept alive for some many years and we know the city of Butte is going to want to jump on this and get going on it,” said Joan Simon.
Dave and Joan Simon have 40 acres of land on the East Ridge in Butte they hope will be the site of the rebuilt Columbia Gardens, a place that has precious memories for them.
They had their first date there the year it closed.
“I get a call, ‘You want to go to the prom? I can’t promise you anything, but I can dance,’ and I still accepted and four years later, we got married,” recalled Joan.
A little history lesson on the Columbia Gardens. It was built by Butte copper king William Clark and it opened in June of 1899.
It remained in operation there east of St. Ann Street until the Anaconda Company closed it down in September of 1973. Two months later, most of the park was destroyed in a mysterious fire that some believe was arson.
“People of Butte don’t realize what a gem we have with the Garden. The Gardens have always been there for the people of Butte until 1973,” said Dave Simon.
The couple is seeking input from the public and those interested in investing in the project they estimate could cost more than $50 million to complete. They’d like to make it feel like the original park.
“The buildings will be sort of nostalgic. What our plan is to make it what we remember,” said Joan Simon.
This archway, located just outside of town, is one of the few remaining artifacts from the original Columbia Gardens and the Simons have a dream to recreate the park, so they can create new memories for a new generation.
“The way Butte’s always been to the Simon family over the years we just want to give something back to the community,” said Dave Simon.