The house at 329 Fifth Ave. in Kalispell is the namesake of its former owners Peter and Rena Weberg. The Webergs bought the home in 1916 and held it until 1966 when Rena passed in 1966, at the age 93.
It makes sense that Peter Weberg, Kalispell’s city treasurer for 29 years, would choose such an efficient, sensible house to call home.
But aside from honoring its past owners, and its simplicity of design, the home should also be appreciated for its controversy – and rebelliousness.
For example, concerning place, this house always stood in the same spot – but in two different places.
Construction of the house started in 1891, just a few years after Montana Territory became the State of Montana, in 1889.
The first nail was hammered in Missoula County – while the last nail was set in Flathead County, which was founded in 1893.
So while this house has been in the same spot, it’s technically been in two different places: Missoula County and Flathead County.
Despite its place, most of the original home is intact as when it was built by early Kalispell carpenter William Williscroft starting in 1891, except for its stucco veneer.
As for the house itself, it is indeed as simple as simple gets: a one-story, hipped roof house with one center chimney and two windows on each side.
Yet therein the simplicity lies the controversy.
At the time the house was built, in the late Victorian era, the prevailing architectural style could be described best as elaborate and decorative – inspired largely by things of emotion and romance.
Yet, there was opposition to this popular notion, held by those who embraced simplicity and utility over things gaudy, fanciful – meretricious even. And there is perhaps no better example of a house in Kalispell that defied those popular notions of yesteryear more abruptly.
This house is Williscroft’s “architectural slap in society’s face.” And except for the front porch (which was remodeled in the 1950s), practically every other aspect of the house contradicts popular architectural notions of the time.
It was as if Williscroft aimed to declare his contempt for things typically Victorian in building this house. For example, the typical Victorian roofline was one of many gables, valleys and chimneys. Here, Williscroft built a basic hipped roof – with just one centered chimney.
Unlike Victorian homes boasting ornate windows of nearly every number and style, Williscroft made the simplest of design choices: two rectangular windows on every side.
While the typical home of the era attempted to accommodate every shape and size of wooden shingle – the more peculiar, the better – yet again Williscroft chose the opposite. Underneath its current stucco veneer stands the original brick veneer – perhaps the most utilitarian form available, superior to only mere sod and cob.
This house is as rebellious now as it was then.
In our modern era of the reigning “open floor plan,” this simple, four-square cottage may seem backward, confused and obstructed with its center-hall fireplace and chimney.
Yet, it beckons a time long ago when a fireplace was not an option, but the essential means of heating. And placing it in the center was a way to equally distribute heat throughout the rest of the house – and bring the family together.
So beyond its simplicity, this house should be appreciated for its rebelliousness – both then and now.
JC Chaix is a writer and certified home inspector and appreciates history, art and architecture.
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