Kalispell’s historic neighborhoods

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Designed by Kirkland Cutter in 1895, the Conrad Mansion, with its beautiful Shingle-style architecture making it an instant design statement for one of Kalispell’s most prominent founding families–was THE domestic architecture landmark when I surveyed the town during the state historic preservation plan of 1984-1985. I really did not look further. As the collage below shows, that was a mistake.

Kalispell has a wide range of domestic architecture, from turn of the 20th century American Four Squares to the Revival styles of the 1920s-1940s, that was captured in its 1994 multiple property nomination to the National Register of Historic Places that led to the creation of the East Side, the West Side, and the Courthouse historic districts.  Defined by tree-lined streets, the variety of house types within the district makes every step along the way worthwhile.

Flathead Co Kalispell east side historic district 2The images above and those below come from those well maintained neighborhoods, where the sense of place and pride is so strongly stated.

But in this quick overview of some of the most impressive Montana neighborhoods–despite overwhelming growth Kalispell has not left its older homes behind–let me re-emphasize a theme of my recent re-survey of the state:  contemporary design and the homes of the 1950s to early 1970s that were not considered closely in either 1984 or 1994.

Flathead Co Kalispell East Side HD ranch house Flathead Co Kalispell contemporary ranch

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Hats off to Kalispell:  a town that had changed so much from 1985 to 2015–let me tell you it didn’t take long to pass through town 30 years ago.  But through historic preservation, its roots are still there, serving as the foundation for the future.

 

Kalispell: Growth and Preservation in Northwest Montana

 

Kalispell was a Montana jewel 0n the Great Northern Railway.  Despite that fact, in 1984 the preservation of the railroad’s historic passenger station was not certain.  This landmark, at the head of the T-plan town, still stood but was viewed as an impediment even an eyesore by some.  The depot (1892, 1899, 1914, 1929) was built when Kalispell was an important division point on the railroad’s main line then altered over the next three decades to the stuccoed exterior you find today.  It marked literally the beginnings of the town’s history.  Yet, when I held a public meeting at another landmark, the town’s historic Carnegie Library (1903) that had recently been through an adaptive reuse into the

Hockaday Art Museum, strong sentiments for more preservation were rarely heard. The depot was not listed in the National Register nor were many of the downtown buildings.  There were a few of the town’s rich stock of Victorian era houses listed. The success of the Hockaday and the Conrad Mansion (1892-1895) historic site seemed to be enough for many residents, or they thought preservation only meant pretty homes and buildings.

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Then came the work east of Kalispell in and around Glacier National Park to inventory and list eligible buildings to the National Register in the mid to late 1980s.  That, along with the loss of key downtown landmarks and new voices from preservationists and property owners, began to grow the interest in historic preservation.

The result was a massive multiple property study of Kalispell for the National Register of Historic Places, resulting in the listing of dozens of additional historical properties in 1994.  The historic railroad depot was listed and serves as home for the Chamber of Commerce and a visitor center, a front porch for the downtown. A new era in historic preservation had been launched, and the result today is impressive, as the next posts will explore.

Appreciating the town’s achievement in historic preservation over the last 20 years comes at an opportune time. The economic changes in the 1980s and 1990s are ready to be repeated again.  A federal grant, matched by local sources, will mean that the historic railroad corridor through the center of town will be moved–opening up acres for new construction.  Everyone knows this will be as fundamental of a change as when the Great Northern moved their division point to Whitefish in 1904. But now Kalispell has a strong historic core, identity, and purpose–the past has become fundamental to its future. Now let’s review that preservation achievement.

Flathead Co Kalispell Preserve America sign