In the early 1900s, Kalispell was still quite rural. Despite being a railroad division point, and a center for agriculture and timber, there were still plenty of wide open spaces.
The home at 619 Second Ave. W. proves the point, as it was the only house on the block when it was built in 1909. And its well-preserved farmhouse style architecture certainly fits, as the home was once surrounded by little more than nearby horse stables and open fields.
The house was built on speculation and hope (much like Kalispell itself). Fellow carpenters Hiram Seeley and William Kelsey believed that Kalispell would continue to grow – and that the home would soon become more valuable as the town progressed. Seeley and Kelsey took their chances, and after framing and roofing the exterior, they lived in the home a few seasons as they finished the interior.
Seeley and Kelsey finished the home and sold it to James Coleman – a man who, at best, had a troubled time in Montana. Coleman could afford the home with earnings from his proprietorship of a hotel saloon and the Pastime Bar, which he successfully owned and operated during the 1910s.
While few were known to chide Coleman’s bartending skills, the Women’s Christian Temperance Union (a group determined to rid the nation of drinking and its ills and evils) certainly found a way to put a stop to Coleman’s success.
The Temperance Union made life quite difficult for Coleman. Even worse, Coleman’s saloon stood across from the YMCA. Thus, the Temperance Union fiercely petitioned against Coleman and his saloon.
Subsequently, Coleman was arrested – not just once – but nearly every day he was at the saloon. Fortunately, a judge finally ruled that despite any temptations that Coleman may or may not purvey, he had a right to operate his saloon, despite its seemingly improper location.
However, Coleman’s peace was temporary as Prohibition would soon take effect in 1918, coincidentally, about the same time Coleman left the home and Montana.
In 1923, the home was sold to its namesakes: Bradley and Ella McAllester. Mrs. McAllester frequently used the home to entertain friends and family, and host civic groups, including the Past Noble Grand Circle of the (masonic) Rebekah Lodge, and the Civic Department of the Century Club.
Aside from his longtime position as the manager of the Equity Supply Company, Mr. McAllester was also quite civic-minded himself. For example, he was a director for the Flathead Game Protective Association among his other services. Yet Mr. McAllester seemed most devoted to serving farmers in the Flathead Valley. He worked tirelessly as an advocate and was a strong supporter of farming causes.
And while the McAllester family seemed to enjoy the home, they perhaps also had to endure a rather difficult time as well.
For carpenters Seeley and Kelsey, the home was a place to hang a hammer, and gain a small advance for their future plans. For Coleman, the home was likely a refuge from the woes of bartending at a time that found Temperance gaining and Prohibition looming.
Yet, unlike the other owners before them, the McAllesters had to watch as their rural, farm-like surroundings were plowed under by real estate development. In 1927, the McAllesters watched as new homes were built on the block. And within several years, the wide pastures just beyond their front door would become sidewalks, alleys and fenced yards – signs that Kalispell would no longer be what it once was.
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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