Flathead Courthouse Renovation Ahead of Schedule

By Beacon Staff

KALISPELL – Work on restoring the 1902 Flathead County Courthouse is 20 percent complete and ahead of schedule, officials say.

“Part of this project is restoring the building to its historic grandeur,” said Corey Johnson, project manager with CTA Architects Engineers. “We are following the spirit of restoration, but not creating an exact replica.”

The $2.6 million project that started in February is expected to be finished in September.

Johnson and John Beck, Martel Construction superintendent, said the number of surprises found during renovations has been minimal.

Notable among the finds, Beck said, was an empty whisky bottle found inside a wall that came from Kalispell distiller August Heller. Beck said the bottle could make a nice addition to a courthouse display case holding historic items.

Johnson said new parts of the courthouse will match the look of the original. That means most of the high ceilings will be retained.

Also, he said, the ductwork for a modern heating and cooling system is being disguised. Remnants from the past in the form of some old brass steam radiators are being kept, but only for ambiance, not for heat.

The building also has an old clock tower, Johnson said, which will be kept. Because it never had a clock installed, it will remain empty. Johnson said the climb into the clock tower offers a 360-degree view of the Flathead Valley.

“It’s kind of a rickety (climb), but worth it,” he said.

The 109-year-old building is also being secured to strengthen it from collapsing during an earthquake.

Third-floor windows that were painted black when an office and closet were installed will be opened back up to offer views of Kalispell’s Main Street.

Modern construction workers have been marveling at the job done by workers before them.

“When you think they stacked bricks one at a time, by hand, it’s pretty amazing,” Beck said. “They did a lot of things right when they built this.”

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