Along Whitefish Stage Road in Kalispell, a lost type of architecture – and way of life – has been well preserved. While there are many granaries throughout the Flathead Valley, the Bruyer Granary is a fine example of an early 20th-century “cribbed” granary.
The square barn with “1909” on the side of it is actually a granary that was built to store grain on the Kal-Mont dairy farm (abbreviated from “Kalispell, Montana”). Although the Kal-Mont dairy farm was once about 440 acres, little is left of this hard-working farm, except for the granary and its surrounding area, as the rest of the acreage has been developed.
The granary was built by the Bruyer family: Julius Bruyer and his sons Philip, Lawrence, Elmer and Nickolas. Julius Bruyer was originally born in France in 1853. He immigrated to America with his family a few years later. He later married Susanna Birgen in 1883. Together, they originally worked a family farm in South Dakota. However, in 1901, they moved to Kalispell – which had plenty to offer since it was the county seat, a railroad division point, a center of the timber industry, and had plenty of markets both near and far.
And while the granary shows the fine workmanship of the family, it also shows its hope and optimism of the future. For example, the granary is a scaled-down version of the large, commercial grain elevators along the Great Lakes and railroad tracks throughout the plains. And aside from being a “miniature” of something much bigger, the Bruyer Granary was built to hold up to 11,000 bushels – which indeed shows the optimism and success planned for a farm this size. And it was hard not to be optimistic as Flathead County doubled in population between 1900 and 1910.
The construction of the Bruyer Granary is also quite unique. It was built using the “cribbing” method. That is, pieces of wood, one for each side, were laid flat to make a square in the shape of the granary. These formed squares were then stacked on top of each other to build up the walls (much like stacking logs to build up the side of a log cabin). Once tall enough, the square formation was then sided to keep its strength and form.
The granary also shows that the Bruyer family had ingenuity – a factor that often made the difference between a successful farm and one that would soon be sold. For example, the Bruyers built the granary so that a wagon loaded with grain bushels could drive up alongside it. Then, using a hand-cranking system that they devised, the loaded wagon could be lifted to the second story of the granary. While raised, the bushels on the wagon were then unloaded in to the bins below. After unloading the bushels, the wagons were then lowered back down to the ground on the other side of the granary (this way, one wagon could be lowered, while another was ready to be raised).
The granary has passed hands over the years, to son Nickolas Bruyer, and later the Schulze family, who purchased the property in 1950. Fortunately – and thankfully – the Schulze family generously donated the granary and the land surrounding it to the City of Kalispell for preservation. And Carl Naumann and Ellen (Bruyer) Naumann (granddaughter), helped restore the granary.
So the next time you travel along Whitefish Stage Road in Kalispell, and a granary with “1909” on its side, realize that you’re passing a landmark of agricultural history and an earlier way of life.
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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