Elkhorn | Montana’s Smallest State Park

Montana’s smallest state park, Elkhorn Ghost Town State park consists of two buildings set on less than 1 acre of land. Those two buildings, however, may be the most photographed buildings in the state. Fraternity Hall represents a fascinating fusion of Greek Revival and gold camp architecture. Made entirely of wood, the hall features a neo-classical balcony and pillars, along with a false front common among western buildings. Quite a few old buildings on private land fill out the rest of the ghost town, a few have been refurbished and house the towns less-than-a-dozen permanent residents.

Fraternity Hall | Elkhorn Mining Town
Elkhorn State Park | Image from IG user @tlynneufeld

Although a prospector discovered silver in the area in 1870, Elkhorn didn’t take off until the 1880s. By 1888, Elkhorn, the largest mine in the area, produced nearly $30,000 of silver a month. At its height, the town housed at least 2,500 people, mostly married miners with families, which created a social dynamic vastly different from most mining camps. The town suffered through the diphtheria epidemic of ’88, but persevered. In 1893, the Fraternal Hall Association formed in order to build the town’s most famous building, which went on to host events sponsored by the Masons, Oddfellows, Knights of Pythias, and other groups. However, by 1897, the town was already in a decline caused by the silver panic that year. The mine discontinued full operations in 1900, and operated only sporadically until the 1940s.