Historic Hotel Hits Century Mark

By Beacon Staff

The Kalispell Grand Hotel has seen a lot of change since it first opened 100 years ago this month. In fact, a lot has happened just since 1994 when Joann Schadewitz first became general manager of the place on the corner of First and Main streets.

But even a century after it opened, there are still little things that offer a window into the building’s past: the high tin ceilings, a grand oak staircase and patterned floors. Those remaining artifacts show the establishment is a survivor from an era when downtown Kalispell had eight high-end hotels. Since that golden age, seven have been torn down, burned down or turned into office space. Schadewitz says the Kalispell Grand’s longevity can be attributed to those concerned with maintaining it.

“This is a special place because there are so many people willing to be invested (in) keeping it around,” she said.

One of those people was Blanche Garrett, who, with her two brothers, purchased the hotel in the late 1960s. When they did, the building was suffering from years of neglect. She said a room at the hotel cost just $2 then, about the same price it was in 1912.

“It was in shambles when we purchased it,” Garrett said. “We took one room at a time and cleaned it up.”

In fact, the grand oak staircase wasn’t the rich oak color people see today, but rather black and covered in soot. Garrett said they didn’t know the true color until the cleaning began.

Once the building was cleaned, it attracted everyone from truckers to students enrolled at the newly opened community college. Garrett remembers meeting two foreign exchange students from Thailand who had never seen snow. One weekend she took them to Essex for a day in the mountains. It’s one of dozens of fond memories from her time at the hotel.

“We had lots of friends from the hotel,” Garrett said. “There were so many really nice people that we enjoyed.”

After Garrett’s family owned it, the hotel’s deed changed hands multiple times until the current owners, Janet and Butch Clark, purchased it in 1991. Between 1989 and 1991, the hotel was renovated and changed from 51 rooms to 40, all with bathrooms. But even with the improvements, Schadewitz said the old hotel still holds some of its historical character.

“It just has a great and wonderful feeling,” she said. “Our downtown is coming back and hotels are coming back and all of those are positives for the Kalispell Grand.”

Last week, the hotel’s centennial passed with little fanfare – a few extra decorations in the lobby and some anniversary deals for guests that will extend through the spring – but those who did note the occasion were proud of their involvement, even if was only for a few years.

“I’m very proud of what I did and I’m proud of what my brothers did,” Garrett said, remembering the hotel she once owned.