The name “Conrad” bears recognition in the Flathead Valley. Along with the Conrad Mansion, Conrad Cemetery and Conrad Drive, the house at 404 Fourth Ave. E. in Kalispell is also part of the family’s legacy.
Like any good “rags-to-riches story,” brothers Charles and William Conrad left their Virginia home after the Civil War with little more than a silver dollar between them. However, they found success in hauling freight by riverboat and ox-cart wagons through the Montana Territory.
Charles and William later founded the Kalispell Townsite Company, the Conrad National Bank of Kalispell, and other cattle and mining companies. Their founding of Kalispell was imparted with success upon the arrival of the Great Northern Railway.
Their younger brother Ashby (Warren Ashby Conrad) followed in their footsteps and success and helped build the family enterprise. For example, in starting the Conrad National Bank, Ashby worked as a cashier. With the growing success of the bank, he served as a bank director just the same.
In the spring of 1895, Ashby’s brother Charles began building upon the plans for his home (which is now the Conrad Mansion). At the same time, Ashby was busy with plans of his own and married Caroline Green on June 26, 1895. These two events likely urged Ashby to have a mansion for himself.
However, Ashby spared himself the nuisance of homebuilding and bought a suitable mansion already built by pioneer rancher and businessman J.L. Cox in 1894. Cox sold the mansion to Ashby, who bought it as a gift for his newlywed wife Caroline in 1896.
Except during the summers, when the house was likely to be found empty as Ashby and Charles had summer cottages on Hawksnest Island on Foys Lake, the mansion must have suited the Conrads well, and for good reason.
The house was built with the best of construction with many fine features and appointments of the day. While the house is predominately of Colonial-Revival style, it has many flourishes of the popular Queen-Anne style as well – a combination of architectural styles that was quite common at the end of the 19th century.
The Centennial Exhibition of 1876 inspired newfound attention to the colonial past of America. It also inspired a return to colonial style architecture as in the plain symmetry, two stories and small gabled dormers at the front of the house (think of colonial buildings in Philadelphia or Boston). The use of brick is also obvious, as brick was used in building earlier colonial homes as well.
The turret at the side of the house – with its pattern-shingles – is an obvious Queen-Anne adornment. As there are few homes with Queen-Anne turrets in the Flathead Valley, this one is worth appreciating.
Other Queen-Anne features include the stained-glass windows and the wrap-around porch, which was carefully reconstructed in 2003 from old photographs with colonial-style columns. The balcony over the bay window at the side of the house is another Queen-Anne feature (as a colonial would be simply plain-sided). The iron fencing along the perimeter of the property, with spearhead finials, is also another touch of history from the Queen-Anne era.
The Conrads resided in the home until Ashby passed in 1922. Afterward, Caroline rented the home for several years until selling it to its other namesake, George Noffsinger, manager of the Glacier National Park Saddle Horse Company.
Fortunately for history, Noffsinger and later owners have taken great care of the home, allowing us to appreciate its history still today.
Jaix Chaix is a writer who appreciates history, art, and architecture. You can share ideas and historical facts with him at email@example.com
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