Headframe Stories

The Kelley Mine

How One Man Made History

Cornelius Francis Kelley came to Butte, MT from Mineral Hill, NV in 1883 at the age of eight. He worked as a water boy on the Butte Hill and part time as a nipper–essentially, a delivery boy of machinery to the miners–underground at the Anaconda Mine.

It wasn’t long before he worked in the engineering department and worked his way up the corporate ladder. In 1918, Kelley got the name “Mr. Anaconda,” by holding the title of President for the Anaconda Copper Mining Company.

By 1949, Cornelius opened the Kelley mine when the demand for copper increased after World War II. He saw this as the adaptive solution to the economic conditions at the time. Towards the end of its life, it was the last underground mine still in operation before closing its shafts in 1974.

Photos provided by the World Museum of Mining

Today, the Kelley is home to Headframe, where we write our own adaptive reuse success story. 

Headframe took over the buildings, which were once mine offices and mining equipment machine shops, and is adaptively reusing them for spirits production, barrel storage and still manufacturing. By bringing manufacturing and innovation back to the Kelley, we help breathe life back into these old buildings and jobs back into our Community.

Headframe came up with the inspiration for the Kelley Single Malt Whiskey in 2010, with no idea that we would one day settle in right here ourselves in 2016. The goal? To honor the brave, Irish immigrants who worked below the ground with an Irish style Whiskey above it.

Now we are doing just that.

The Kelley was once a site where men gathered, risking their lives for their livelihood. Today, Headframe honors them as our team gathers here working to create something new, born from the respect of our past. 

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