When you walk into the Tasting Room at Headframe Spirits, there’s an instant sense of satisfaction even before you sample our handcrafted spirits. The first thing you’ll notice is the statuesque backbar that stands tall and proud to greet customers. Its meticulous wood work, beauty and strength has a story to tell. If only inanimate objects could speak of their incredulous journey.
The backbar came down the Mississippi River in 1906 by steamboat. Simultaneously, Gabriel “Teddy” Traparish immigrated to Butte from Dubrovnik, Croatia. He was 19 years old and single.
He aspired to be a businessperson, and Butte was a desirable place to achieve this dream.
Traparish fit perfectly in Butte. He had an outstanding work ethic, a goal driven mind and compassion and generosity for his community.
Traparish accomplished his goal after moving his way up the ranks, with long nights of working in bars.
In 1929, Teddy’s Rocky Mountain Cafe opened its doors in an Italian community named Meaderville. The Cafe would flood with the sounds of live music, dancing and delight from the patrons who filled it; finding relief after a long day’s work.
By 1935, his cafe was spotlighted, receiving attention from national magazines. The New York Times, Chicago Tribune and Saturday Evening Post spoke widely of the restaurant, the food and the people.
Teddy Traparish, who ended up becoming known as, ‘Mr. Meaderville,’ said, ”Henceforth, you will please forget New Orleans, refer Charleston to the rubble heap, abandon San Francisco, repudiate New York and dismiss Boston utterly. For Meaderville is the most incredible restaurant in (I swear) the world,” according to a 2004 Montana Standard article.
Photos provided by the World Museum of Mining
What was once Meaderville, is now the Berkley Pit. During the mining encroachment, underground mining transitioned to open pit mining causing the whole community to disappear. In 1961, Traparish chose to close his Rocky Mountain Cafe at 74 years old. Five years later, he donated his backbar to the World Museum of Mining.
John and Courtney McKee, the owners of Headframe Spirits, went to the museum before opening their doors. In it, they found Traparish’s backbar in the basement. They asked if they could display it in their distillery, thinking the least the owners could say is, no. The owners of the museum enthusiastically said, yes.
Headframe’s distillery was once home to a Buick dealership; although Traparish had a love for Cadillacs and would purchase a new one every year for almost 50 years, he wouldn’t be disappointed to know where his backbar stands today.
Mr. Meaderville was a restauranteur, a cadillac enthusiast and a genuine man. He never did marry or have children that would carry on his namesake. But, his legacy is carried from each newcomer and patron who are welcomed inside the doors, for Teddy resonates with the chatter of customers and the pour of our spirits alike.