Catholic Parish/Bjorneby House

By Beacon Staff

The home at 435 Fourth Ave. E. was one of Kalispell’s original brick-clad, American Foursquare style homes (of which relatively few remain intact). At the time it was built, before 1897, the American Foursquare style was at its rise to popularity. It was a style that shared commonalities with the Prairie and Craftsman architecture – and was quite opposite to the ornate ambitions of the Victorian style.

The home was the parsonage for the St. Matthew’s Catholic Church. And between 1907 and 1925 it was the home of Kalispell’s longtime Catholic priest Francis X. O’Farrell (who was born in Woodford, County Galway, Ireland in 1865). While living in the home, O’Farrell was holding service and managing the building of St. Matthew’s Catholic hospital, parochial school and a “newer” brick church, five blocks to west (the old church once stood just next door to this house).

Today, the home resembles little of its original appearance on the outside. Although the original basement and covered brick walls reveal its origins, so does the old carriage house at the alley with its original brick cladding. While the carriage house can give you a glimpse of what the original American Foursquare looked like, the home itself now stands as an example of the Tudor Revival style of the late 1920s.

After serving the parish, the home began its secular life when Emil Gunneriusson Bjorneby, son of Norwegian immigrants purchased the home in 1928. Before Emil and his wife Margaret moved in, they transformed the modest foursquare fashioned after the Tudor Revival style that it still resembles today.

The Bjorneby family arrived in Kalispell in 1895. Mary Bjorneby raised their five daughters, while her husband Emil started work in a hardware store, then dealing with groceries, farming and real estate, before founding the Bjorneby Flour Mill with his brother George in 1909. If not for flour, then his name may be familiar for his five terms serving the Montana Legislature. He began his political career in 1932 while still living in the house (the same year a large fire broke out at the flour mill).

Aside from a long political career, Emil Bjorneby had a long marriage of sixty-two years. And he was a longtime resident of the same block on Fourth Avenue East, for 54 years (Bjorneby first lived at 435, then he moved next door at 445, after building a new home where the old church once stood).

Fortunately, many of the stylistic changes Bjorneby made are still visible today. For example, the half-timbered gable at the second floor is a hallmark of the Tudor-Revival style. So are the long, multi-paned windows, tall, obvious chimney and the whimsical slopes and curves of the rooflines on the covered front and side porches.

Aside from the style of the home, it should also be appreciated for its role in early Kalispell history. It was built just four years after the Great Northern Railway arrived. It should also be appreciated for how its original bricks still stand behind its stucco facade, and on the old carriage house at the alley. And for how it served the St. Matthew’s Church. And how it was home to one of Kalispell’s earliest families: its namesake, the Bjorneby family.

Stay Connected with the Daily Roundup.

Sign up for our newsletter and get the best of the Beacon delivered every day to your inbox.