Morgan House

By Beacon Staff

Judging a house by its facade is much like judging a book by its cover.

There’s more to the history of a home than the way it looks. Oftentimes, the people who lived there – and their artifacts – reveal more of the story.

For example, across from the Conrad Mansion sits a stately home known as the “Morgan House” after Franklin M. Morgan, the renowned architect who designed and was its first owner.

Morgan built the house in 1892 for himself. So perhaps the home represented his true likings and architectural vision. Morgan originally built the home in the Queen Anne style, although a drastic remodeling in 1924 by the MacDonald family transformed it to the Colonial Revival appearance it has now.

Indeed, the early documented history of this home and its owners speaks of prominence, accomplishment and respect. It would take a book to tell all of the significance of Morgan’s architectural footprint in Montana and the gilded history of its later owners.
Yet every house has a story. A story seldom told – unless you dig for it.

The current owners, Mitch and Stacy Burgard, indeed treasure this house. They’ve spent considerable time tending to its maintenance – and learning more about its rich history.

Aside from scrutinizing materials from the archives, Mitch Burgard has also completed other important work to uncover the home’s history: he’s dug around in the crawl space.

Burgard shared some of the artifacts he found down there – artifacts that tell a history often not seen or heard.

For example, Burgard found pieces of the original wallpaper and the original trim work that give us even more insight into Morgan’s taste and aesthetic sensibility.

He also found artifacts that reveal interactions that took place inside the home. For example, Burgard found a Bridge scorecard with the name “Conrad” written at the top, suggesting that the neighbors from the Conrad Mansion across the street played Bridge here as well (the Conrads’ score wasn’t too impressive).

Interestingly, Burgard also found various champagne and liquor bottles, matchbooks and a 1919 can of Copenhagen chewing tobacco in the basement. These artifacts tell perhaps a different side of the history of the home.

They suggest that while the parlor hosted prominent guests of early Kalispell, some of home’s residents, servants and visitors took to the basement to steal a cigarette or a lick of their favorite libation. It’s a seedier side of the home’s history – and one we’d likely never guess from its stately appearance above ground.

This also hints to an interesting dichotomy that seems prevalent in the history of the house. For example, in 1902 the home was owned by John Harrington Edwards and his wife Mary. Both were prominent citizens of early Kalispell. And Mary was noted by the Kalispell Bee newspaper in 1905 as “the most prominent public benefactor Kalispell has had.”

Yet at the same time, their live-in servant and cook, Edward Cooper, was arrested for shooting at a rival who was also courting the affections of Ms. Delilah Sounds.

This house is not only a fine example of early 20th century ideals; it’s also a reminder that there’s more to a home than just its appearance – and the outward appearance of its owners. And like books and their covers, you can’t judge a house by its jerkinhead gabled roof, its balustrades, columns, or balconies, or its design appointments by one of Montana’s most important architects. Sometimes to judge a more complete history of a home, you just need to dig a little.

JC Chaix is a writer and certified home inspector and appreciates history, art and architecture.

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