Philipsburg emerged almost overnight. It was born of the mineral boom and named after a prominent mining engineer, Philip Deidesheimer. In August of 1867, the town was "scarcely thirty days old" but by December of that same year, the town boasted a population of about 1500, and over 250 houses had been built.
By 1869, the town dissolved as quickly as it grew and was referred to as "the Deserted Village." In 1869 only 36 people remained at the end of summer, but the town slowly recovered. In 1873, growth was sparked partially by the reorganization of Northwest Mining Company and Hope Mining Company. In 1874, the Northern Pacific Railroad made it possible to ship ore and merchandise which had previously been transported by ox teams and wagons from the Utah territory. Manganese deposits, vital for war production and the richest in the United States, kept the town sprouting during World War I. Later manganese dioxide needed for dry cell batteries continued the demand well into 1925.
Philipsburg survived while others remained only as ghost towns. Today, the town is a National Historic District full of unique architecture. In 1997, it was named one of the five "Prettiest Painted Places in America." Old fashioned street lights with American and Montana flags flying from their standards line the main street. Among the many historical buildings is the original county jail, constructed in 1895 and still in use today. The Philipsburg School is the oldest in the state and celebrated its centennial in 1996. The McDonald Opera House is another must-see piece of architecture. It is the oldest theater still in operation in Montana and has been on the National Historic Building Registry for years.