In 1894, Kalispell was still quite a sparse town. The city was only two years old and just developing as a key place of industry, where the railroad, farmers, sawmills and flourmills all coalesced.
It was the same year that Rev. Olin Wesley Mintzer bought one of the original town sites from Charles E. Conrad’s Kalispell Townsite Company. Mintzer built his home here, at 321 Fifth Ave. E. in the popular Queen-Anne style.
Newspapers of yesteryear are full of articles noting the Methodist Episcopal Rev. Mintzer officiating marriages at various homes and churches. However, Mintzer’s residence in the home did not last long. In 1896, he was appointed to another church in Great Falls.
Despite the brief residency of Mintzer and his family, its choices in building the home would last more than a century. For example, the home has gabled roofs on all sides, often called a cross-gabled roof. And like many folks in the late 19th century, despite the value and availability of brick, they opted to construct the home with wood framing with decorative siding, typical of the day.
Their preference for ornate stained-glass windows, patterned siding, and fanciful scroll work have also outlasted generations.
After the Mintzer’s ownership, the home would also follow a long and important history of residents and ownership – well worth noting.
In the early 1900s, Frederick French and his family lived in the home. In addition to his success as the proprietor of American Steam Laundry, French also rented the home to eight boarders. French had a unique amenity when it came to advertising rooms for rent. While his American Steam Laundry company handled laundry from Libby to Roundup, it also provided laundry service for boarders who rented a room.
After the French family resided here, the home was owned by its namesake, Chester C. (Chet) Brintnall. Brintnall served the local postal service from 1902 until 1948 – almost 46 years. When he started as a mail clerk in 1902, Kalispell had no parcel post delivery, no delivery in the city, and no rural delivery either – just a general delivery window. Brintnall retired as assistant postmaster, a position he held since 1916.
In 1923, Brintnall made the home even more noteworthy as he leased it to Frank Bird Linderman: also known as “Sign Talker,” former Montana Assistant Secretary of State Lindermann, or state legislator Linderman – and perhaps most well-known of them all, Linderman the famous Montana author.
Linderman moved to Montana Territory in 1885 at the age of 16 as a trapper and pioneer. He lived and learned among the Native Americans along the shores of Flathead Lake near Bigfork and Lakeside and mastered their sign language (earning him the name Sign Talker).
By 1923, Linderman had already published several written works. Linderman bought the Kalispell Hotel as part of his plan to earn enough money to later finance his writing career. While running the hotel, Linderman lived here, in the Brintnall residence.
While the home does not bear Linderman’s name, a Kalispell school building does. And while the home played a critical yet quiet role in the life of one of Montana’s famous writers, you would never know it from walking or driving past the outside.
Since Linderman’s residency, the home has been exceptionally well cared for. Maybe the careful maintenance is born of pride of ownership, or perhaps from knowing first-hand about the rich, important history of the home – one that played a pivotal role in Montana’s literary history as well.
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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