Peterson House

By Beacon Staff

When it comes to building a home, sometimes the materials used to build it define the home (and its legacy) as much as the people who built it.

For example, consider the home at 604 Fourth Ave. E. in Kalispell. It was the first home to be built on the block, back in 1896 – for a bit of perspective, it’s the same year that Utah became a state.

It was built by Swedish immigrants Olaf Peterson and his wife Johanna. Olaf was a section boss among other positions with various railroads. Later, Peterson was involved in mining and other pursuits.

It’s interesting to note that the Petersons built the home using brick – striking red-orange brick.

The home stands out from other houses – and stands at odds with them too. The Peterson House was built of brick, while all the other homes built later on the block were built using wood-frame construction.

And the home just doesn’t stand at odds with the later homes, it stood at odds with many of its later occupants. Many of the folks – who lived in this brick house – were ironically in the lumber industry.

The Petersons, who built the home and gave this home its namesake, sold it to George Millet in 1908. Millet was a timber dealer.

Millet shortly sold the home to Julius Neils of Portland, Ore., who was also involved in the lumber industry. Neils was a lumberman with dealings throughout the Pacific Northwest. While expanding his lumber enterprise in Montana, Neils sent his son-in-law, Harry Schocknecht, to establish lumberyards in the Kalispell area and elsewhere around Northwest Montana. The Schocknecht family lived in the home until about 1915. The Schocknechts – a lumber family – lived in a house made of brick also.

And perhaps the last resident with lumber affiliations to live in this striking brick house was Thomas Gardner. Gardner was a logging contractor and lived in the home with his family during the 1920s.

Aside from standing as an ironic brick residence for those in the lumber industry, the home also briefly served as a parish house for the Trinity Lutheran Church in the neighborhood. And it was also the residence of Dr. Ralph Towne and his wife Marie from 1936 until 1967.

At some point in the early 20th century, renowned Kalispell architect Fred Brinkman designed its newer windows. Brinkman’s modifications were just a few that were made to the home, which for the most part still retains its original 19th-century Victorian shape and design – and its striking red-orange brick exterior. An enclosed porch is perhaps the only other more noticeable addition to the original structure.

Fortunately, the original brick exterior, with its tall, gabled roof, still stands for us to appreciate as a reminder of one of Kalispell’s earliest brick homes still intact today.

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

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