Saturday, March 29, 2014


I first posted this article at the end of April, 2011.  Since that time, I've received comments from multiple people giving me further information about some of the homes, and correcting some of my historical facts (guess not everything in Wikipedia is factual).  The east side of Kalispell is very historic and extremely beautiful.  Wide, tree lined streets with these exquisite, historical homes.  

So I decided to re-post the article with pictures, and include the new information.  Again, the bulk of the information about the homes was taken from the Montana Historical Plaques.
Kalispell was founded in the spring of 1891 when Charles Conrad purchased land from the Reverend George Fisher and other early settlers for the Kalispell Townsite Company, of which he was the chief stockholder and managing director.  Some who doubted that this company would ever touch the new settlement, dubbed it "Collapsetown" and "Wait a Spell".  Even so, lots sold for as much as $1,250. 

On New Year's day of 1892, the Great Northern Railroad tracks officially reached Kalispell.  The town was designated the temporary county seat of Flathead County in 1893.  It did not become the permanent county seat until the election of November, 1894, when the voters of the county selected Kalispell by a large margin, much to the disgust and chagrin of Columbia Falls.  Kalispell became an important trade, financial, and service center.  

One of the famous buildings in the downtown area is the Kalispell Hotel (on the National Registry).  It was designed by architect Marion Riffo, who also designed many of the beautiful homes and mansions on the east side of Kalispell.  And this post will feature many of these beautiful east side homes.  

According to the East Side Historical District, "As the town of Kalispell ended its first decade in 1901, the Kalispell Bee reported that the artistic and modern residences would well ornament a much larger city.  Dozens of spacious Queen Anne, Colonial Revival, and vernacular style East Side homes had by now erased the hay meadows that once covered the town site."

And one of the most famous homes was Charles E. Conrad's 72 acre estate and mansion, designed and built in 1895 by Spokane architect Kirkland Cutter.  He designed the beautiful shingle style design, with four native stone chimneys serving eight fireplaces, stand and mullioned glass, hardwood interiors, and many up-to-the-minute conveniences.   

Conrad Mansion
Charles, and his brother William, moved to Montana from their Virginia home in 1868 at the age of 18.  They were employed by, and then bought, L. G. Baker Company, a merchantile and freight business.  In 1892, they expanded this business and ventured into banking, founding the Conrad Brothers Bank.  

It was Conrad's business association with James Hill that helped influence the Great Northern Railroad to come to the area, which founded the city of Kalispell.  Charles Conrad did not get to enjoy his beautiful home for long -- he died in the home in 1902.

The following homes are all located right around the Conrad Mansion, and Charles Conrad's son lived in two of them.


Architect Franklin M. Morgan left a trail of buildings he helped construct from Billings to Miles City and Great Falls.  Many were the first buildings in these fledgling communities.  Little of Morgan's work remains, but his own Kalispell Residence designed and constructed in 1892 is a fascinating study in change.  
Morgan House

Originally a striking Queen Ann style home, owner William McDonald had the exterior remodeled in 1924.  The dramatic emergence from the Queen Ann style to the Colonial Revival included alteration of the cross-gabled roof to clipped gable, squaring the original floor plan to make it more symmetrical, and the addition of classical details, including Tuscan columns and circular windows.  The transformation was almost complete, except for the remaining two story canted bay on the east, which betrays the Queen Ann origins of this significant house.  This home sits across the street from the back of the Conrad Mansion.

Newlyweds Kokoa Baldwin, daughter of Kalispell attorney Marcus Baldwin, and Charles D. Conrad, son of the wealthy Charles E. Conrad, built and settled in this 3-story wood frame home in 1907.  The comfortable front gabled residence with it's combination shingle and 
clapboard siding, wrap around porch, and square columns

Conrad/Tobie House
was reportedly architect designed.  Tradition has it that the porch was built in Spokane and brought here in 1907.  After the Conrads divorced in 1915, Alba and Francis Jurgens Tobie purchased the home.  Alba Tobie was president of the Conrad Bank and Mrs. Tobie, a graduate of the Chicago Art Institute, was an artist of some renown.  She filled the home with her work.  The vivacious Mrs. Tobie combined art with a busy career that included women's page Editor of the Kalispell Bee, proprietor of the Kalispell Gardens, and many professional affiliations.  In 1945 Chet and Jewell Chrisinger bought the property.  Chet grew up in the neighborhood and as children, he and the Conrad's son played together in the Conrad Mansion.  The Christingers and their four children maintained the historic home for over 50 years.  


 Real estate and insurance agent Charles Griffith arrived in Kalispell in 1891, four months after the Great Northern Railroad established the town.  An important member of the young
Griffith/Conrad House
community, Griffith served as city treasurer and was a founding member of the 1892 Kalispell Volunteer Fire Department.  Sometime between 1891 and 1897, Griffith built a relatively small one-and-one half story home on what would become one of the city's most prominent corners.  After 1903, but before 1910, Griffith and his wife Ella dramaticaly expanded the residence, adding a large, two story addition to the front of the house and a smaller, one-story addition to the northeast corner.  When the Griffiths sold the house in 1918, it became home to Francis McGee, the Kalispell Bee's local and society editor.  Charles D. and Agnes Conrad lived here by 1922.  President of the Conrad National Bank from 1920 to his death in 1941, Charles D. was the son of the prominent Charles E. Conrad, whose mansion across the street is now a museum.  Members of the Conrad Family lived in both homes into the 1960's.  

NOTE:  This is the same Charles D. Conrad who lived in the Conrad/Tobie house which is right across the street.  Charles divorced Kokoa Baldwin Conrad and married Agnes.


NOW....I am going to focus on homes on the east side that were designed by Architect Marion B. Riffo.  As mentioned, he designed the Kalispell Grand Hotel, which is on the National Registry of Historic Buildings.  These east side homes are beautiful!!!


The Keith House was built in 1912.  The house is also known as the Loutherback Home and
The Harry C. Keith House
was designed by architect Marion B. Riffo as a Colonial Revival Style.  This home was listed on the National Registry in 1987.  I have searched the Internet, but have not be able to find much information about this home.  I did receive an e-mail from Nancy Palmquist who said her husband's grandmother lived in the house and was a Keith.  I am hoping to receive more information.  

Most of the homes have a historical plaque from which I got most of my information, but if this home had one, it was probably 

attached to the front of the house, and I didn't want to walk up to the front door.  

The home did have a unique children's playhouse which is designed to look like the home -- very cute!!


Architect Marion Ruffo demonstrated a flair for the dramatic in this grand residence, built in 1910 for State Lumber Company manager David Barber.  The home features tall prominent
Agather House
chimneys against a steep, side-gabled roof, which capture
Side View of Agather House
the attention of even the most casual passerby.  Varied exterior treatments include half-timbers, native rock, and ornate ironwork.  After a series of tragedies decimated the Barber family, Alfons and Martha Agather purchased the home in 1919.  Russian-born Alfons, who had served in the imperial guard of Czar Nicholas, was the cashier and eventually became president of the First National Bank of Kalispell.  Martha, a daughter of Julius and Mary Neils of the J. Neils Lumber Company in Libby, worked hard to keep the home after her husband's death in 1929.  Their daughter Margaret, who grew up here and later owned the home, could remember "when the house was on the very outskirts of town and most of the Eastside was a grassy field...."  The home remains in the family today because of Martha's perserverance.


Dr. Albert and Minnie Brassett built this house with money given Minnie as a wedding present by her father.  Constructed in 1911, the comfortable Craftsman style bungalow 
Albert Brassett House
reflects the fashions of the day.  Craftsman style houses abound in Kalispell; this one, designed by local architect Marion Riffo, features a full-length front porch, wide eaves, a flared brick chimney, and a shed dormer.  A well known physician, Dr. Brassett opened his practice in Kalispell in 1909 and performed the first surgery at Kalispell General Hospital.  He retired in 1954 on his eightieth birthday, having served in some cases as family physician for three generations.  Before buying one of the first automobiles in Kalispell in 1913, Dr. Brassett walked to attend his in-town patients, including those at Kalispell General.  The hospital's location two and a half blocks away likely influenced the Brassetts' choice of building site.  The Brassetts raised two children here.  Their long-term residency testifies to the home's fine design.  Minnie and Albert both lived here until their deaths, hers in 1952 and his in 1956.


A blend of the Prairie and Craftsman styles illustrates the creative genius of Kalispell architect Marion Riffo, who designed and supervised the construction of this exceptional residence between 1909 and 1910.   Craftsman style characteristics include prominent knee
Elliot House
 braces supporting the eaves, heavy piers, stucco siding, and Tudor half-timbering.  Wide eaves accentuate the low-pitched hipped roof.  Banded windows create a horizontal emphasis typical of the Prairie style.  The use of natural colors and materials establish the Prairie ideal that a home should blend into the landscape.  Northwest Lumber Company treasurer, Charles Dobner and his wife, Agnes, were the first owners of this "unique and artistic" Kalispell landmark.  William and Ellen Elliot lived in the home from 1917 to 1938.  During World War II, it served as winter headquarters for Glacier National Park, and housed the office of Price Administration, and provided classrooms and a dining hall for Civil Air Patrol cadets.  From 1948 to 1964, it was the residence of Dr. Neil and Marian Leitch.  In 1964, Dr. Harry and Mary Gibson purchased the home.  



Originally I believed this home was called the Kramer house -- and you can find pictures of this home on the Internet under Kramer House.  Thanks to an "anonymous" reader, I found out this home was in the Matt Himsl family for a very, very long time.  Knowing this, I was able to research some additional information about the home, and eventually found it on the Montana Historical page under "Conlon House".  I've pieced this information together, and hope I am correct.  
Conlon/Himsl House

Pioneer merchant James Conlon commissioned architect Joseph B. Gibson to design this stunning Georgian Revival style home in 1914.  The home was built for Conlon's wife, Mary.  He owned a merchantile and livery stable that was on the side street (off Main) where Glacier Bank now sits.

Amenities within the home hint at the upper-class lifestyle enjoyed by the Conlon family.  From the balconied portico outside to the mahogany staircase lifting grandly in the center of the home, this home was built to impress.

The house originally had a carriage house with a butler's quarters upstairs.  It is believed the carriage house was moved to northwest Kalispell.  A deactivated butler/maid buzzing system with pop-up numbers for the room soliciting service remains in the home.  Sliding pocket doors open to reveal the many original features including fireplaces, ceiling coffers and other woodwork carved from mahogany.  Innovative features include a woodbox concealed in a hall seat that is served from a basement dumbwaiter and a dining room radiator with a built-in food warmer.

An interesting historical fact:  The remnants of a built-in vacuum system remain visible in the house, although the metal was removed and donated to the war effort.

The home was purchased by North Dakota banker Mr. B. M. Wohlwend in 1945 for his wife, and his daughter, Lois, who was newly wed to Matt Himsl.  Both families lived in the home for a number of years, until after the 5th child was born.  At that time, the Wohlwends moved to a home nearby.  Matt and Lois met when Matt, as superintendent of schools, hired Lois as a teacher in Broadus.  The couple moved to Kalispell where Matt bought a half interest in Wohlwend Motors, a Dodge dealership.

Matt Himsl became a well-respected member of the business community, serving as a director of Conrad National Bank (now First Interstate Bank) and owning part of KGEZ radio until 1995.  He was a twenty-four year Republican legislator to both the Montana House and Senate.  Friendly neighbors have called this beautiful home the "Embassy" for it's inviting grace, warm interior, and cordial owners.

In 2007, after almost 60 years, the elegant Himsl home was put up for sale.  This beautiful salmon-colored neo-classical mansion is memorable to many for the large angel spotlighted unter the portico each Christmas.  


Described by the Flathead Herald-Journal as "an elegant mansion" in the "colonial style", this residence's overall symmetry and small gabled front dormers are typically Colonial 
Revival.  However, the two-story turret, elaborate stained glass windows, and wraparound porch (reconstructed from photographs in 2003) reflect the popular Queen Anne style.  Such architectural combinations were common around the turn of the century.  Rancher and businessman J. L. Box planned and supervised construction of the two-story brick home in 1894, but he and his wife lived here only briefly.  In 1896, Warren Ashby Conrad purchased the
residence for his bride, Caroline, whom he met when a nationwide railroad strike stranded her in Kalispell.  Ashby -- younger brother of Charles and William Conrad -- was an officer of the Conrad National Bank.  After Ashby's death in 1922, Caroline rented the home to tenants, including Lelia Brown, who used it as a base from which to explore Glacier  In 1929, George Noffsinger, manager of the Glacier National Park Saddle Horse Company, purchased the residence, where members of the Noffsinger family continued to live until 1944.  

My own personal observations -- loved the wrought iron fence, the lion sitting on the rock wall, and the old fashion gas lights.  


Railroad superintendent William B. Green built this elegant home between 1891 and 1894, using bricks intended for the Great Northern Railway's depot.  A lien was placed on the home when railroad officials made the discovery.  Green was fired but remained in Kalispell undaunted.  Subsequent early owners included Flathead Herald-Journal founder John Moore (early 1900s), the George and Elida Bjorneby family (1916-1926), and Iver and Florence Hanson (1926-1936).

Green / Bjoorneby House
Originally constructed in the Queen Anne style, the home is a striking example of remodeling in a different style.  In the 1940's, the home was transformed from the "product of the gay nineties" into a fashionable Tudor style home.  Removal of a wraparound porch, additional of an attached garage, and the application of stucco and half-timbering almost obliterated its Victorian-era origins.  The asymmetrical roofline, a lovely stained glass transom, and ornate interior woodwork, however, remain from the 1890's. 


Diana said...

Thank you for this lovely post of these beautiful old homes of Kalispell, Nancy. We moved to the valley last year and I am fascinated by these old homes. I've been in the Conrad Mansion a couple times over the years when I visited my parents and now I'd like to drive around and look for these others. I think my favorite of the ones you discuss is the Agather house.

Nancy Chalmers said...

Thanks Diana.....I love driving the streets around the Conrad Mansion. Such lovely homes on beautiful tree-lined streets. Park your car and just walk around. You'll see the Montana Historical plagues and enjoy reading them.

alex amarxon said...

These were just a few of the people out on the lake this morning. They were spread out, and pretty much using the entire lake surface. fence contractors kansas city