The house at 511 Fourth Ave. E. stands as a grand reminder of Kalispell’s 19th-century past.
This unique, Queen-Anne style home is named after its original owners Sophie and John McIntosh and still reflects the promise and vibrancy of the 1890s.
John McIntosh was originally born in Canada (of Scottish descent). In 1891, he moved to Kalispell and set up John McIntosh & Co. – Kalispell’s first hardware store.
As newlyweds, John and Sophie built their home atop “Knob Hill,” a naturally elevated area in town. When the home was completed in 1894, Kalispell looked quite different. Back then, houses were few and far between and the home had tremendous views in every direction.
In fact, the Flathead Herald-Journal reported that the house stood at “the most exalted position in Kalispell.” Obviously, much has changed since then, and the view from the McIntosh House is now little more than plainly suburban.
Aside from the bygone views, practically all of the other original characteristics of the home remain intact. For example, the house still has its original “upright and wing” layout: a two-story gable on one side and a single-story wing on the other.
The original “fish scale” siding, “wavy” clapboard and decorative wood trim – all painted in delightfully unavoidable colors – reveal hallmarks of the Victorian era.
It’s fortunate that not much has been added or removed in the last 120 years. And it may seem even more fortunate, especially considering that McIntosh was a rather ambitious entrepreneur.
Yet there is perhaps a simple explanation why the home was not altered: McIntosh was busy building and running an opera house.
In 1896, just two years after building this house, he built the McIntosh Opera House on Main Street above his hardware store (where Western Outdoor and Norm’s News now stand).
Initially, the opera house was a success. Although over time, as society changed, so did the opera hall and it served as a roller rink, basketball court, dance hall, boxing ring and rental hall.
In his later years, McIntosh advertised the hall from his house. So if you were looking to rent the hall, you would stop by the house, or just dial the house phone number: 108L.
Even at the age of 86, McIntosh would answer the phone and handle business regarding the meeting hall at home. And at the age of 90, McIntosh remained quite busy tending to the vegetable and flower garden at the home.
Unfortunately, John died in 1947 and Sophie died in 1920. They raised four children at the home, which has remained in the McIntosh family until 1979.
Fortunately, we can still appreciate their original Queen-Anne-style home thanks to McIntosh’s entrepreneurial ambitions (which likely kept him preoccupied from fussing with the home’s design), and the great care that has been provided for the home over the years.
So the next time you’re around “Knob Hill,” be sure to take a moment and appreciate the McIntosh House – one of the best-kept “upright and wing” homes in Kalispell.
JC Chaix is a writer and certified home inspector and appreciates history, art and architecture.
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