Copper Block

Also known as: Empire Hotel
46 E Galena Street, Butte, MT


Copper Block

Photo by HABS/HAER 1968, Library of Congress




The Copper Block was built by the Nadeau Investment Company in 1892 as the Empire Hotel. The three story brick building on the northwest corner of Galena and Wyoming streets while not built as a brothel nonetheless provided lodging and became something of a headquarters for the pimps, prostitutes and gamblers of Butte's red light district. The Nadeau brothers who owned at least 5 properties in the district had their offices here and the building's rear entrances faced the notorious Venus Alley.

The corner saloon, originally the Copper King and later the Stockman Bar, developed a unsavory reputation as well. The last proprietor, "Dirty Mouth" Jean Sorenson was charged with homicide for shooting her house mate in 1959 but was found not guilty. The jury believed her claim of self defense. Twenty years later Sorenson again faced a charge of homicide after shooting a customer during a profanity laced argument at the bar. This time she was convicted and sentenced to 24 years imprisonment. She served 3-1/2 years, was pardoned and died in Butte 2 year later.

The Copper Block was torn down in 1991. Officials feared it might collapse and no financially viable proposal for rehabilitation could be found.

Update Log 

  • November 24, 2021: Updated by Bill Eichelberger: Mapped landmark
  • August 11, 2019: New photo from Richard Doody
  • August 11, 2019: Added by Richard Doody