Philipsburg  never really changed much after 1900, and the old town has remained intact. The chamber of commerce passes out a brochure for a walking tour to 32 historic buildings. Lots of antique stores and cafés now line the streets. Downtown’s Victorian storefronts are especially colorful and well-preserved, many with original signage. The grade school, built in 1894, is the oldest school building in Montana still in use.
Newly reopened is the Opera House Theatre (140 S. Sansome St., 406/859-0013), Montana’s oldest theater still in operation, built in 1891. The theater presents a three-play summer season of melodramas and vintage stage productions from July 4 through September 1.
The Granite County Museum and Cultural Center (155 S. Sansome St., 406/859-3020) houses exhibits on hard-rock mining and ghost towns. This is a good place to learn about the many ghost towns in the neighborhood; ask for directions to Kirkville, Black Pine, or Red Lion.
Four miles southeast of Philipsburg on a gravel road is Granite, whose rich mines earned it the nickname “Silver Queen.” Granite boomed along with Philipsburg; $30 million of silver was mined there during the 1880s.
Granite suffered more grievously when the bottom fell out of the gold market in 1893. Within hours of the mines’ closing, 3,000 miners and their families reportedly descended on Philipsburg to withdraw their bank accounts and purchase one-way tickets out. The handsome Miner’s Union Hall, a three-story brick structure, is one of the few buildings still standing.
Mining hasn’t totally gone bust in Philipsburg. Visitors can stop by the Sapphire Gallery (115 E. Broadway, 406/859-3236 or 800/525-0169) and dig through concentrate from nearby mines for sapphires. Very nice sapphire and ruby jewelry is also sold here.