“One of the handsomest dwelling houses in the city” – declared the Kalispell Bee newspaper in 1903. And in indeed it was, and in so many ways, still is.
The home was built by Cassuis McCarty for one of Kalispell’s pioneering citizens of prominence, James Wiltse Walker – as in James W. Walker, former school trustee, Kalispell city councilman, Flathead County clerk and recorder, Montana state treasurer and commissioner of Montana Lands and Investments.
Like other pioneers, Walker came to the Flathead Valley in 1892. He was originally from Oshkosh, Wis. And after completing studies at Northwestern University School of Pharmacy, he operated drug stores in Columbia Falls and Kalispell.
In 1903, the house was completed and became the stately home to Walker, his wife Blanche and their daughter Phyllis.
Aside from being one of “Kalispell’s fathers,” Walker was an early automobile enthusiast. In retrospect, he had a seemingly odd relationship with all things driving. For example, the residence was one of the first to have an automobile parked outside. His daughter Phyllis was reportedly the first child in Kalispell to learn to drive. And coincidentally, Walker unfortunately died of a heart attack in 1951 – while standing on line to get his drivers license, at age 84.
The Walkers defined the home and its original character. However, they only lived in the home a few years. In 1908, Clifford B. Harris, president of the Kalispell National Bank pruchased the home.
In 1914, John Hogl, of the Kalispell Malting and Brewing Company moved in and lived in the home for several years as well.
In 1920, Sarah Ingraham bought the home. She is the widow of Sheriff Ingraham – who was a lawman at a time when telegraphs and patrol wagons were used for saloon robberies, coin forgeries, murders and other deeds of early 20th-century outlaws and miscreants.
Ingraham converted the home somewhat and operated a popular boarding house from 1920 to 1946 – during some of the most trying times in American history, including the Great Depression and WWII.
One of Ingraham’s classified ads from 1931 read: “FOR RENT – Rooms with board. 540 2nd Avenue West, phone 491L.” The ad reads more like an artifact of a bygone era when phone numbers were four digits or less. And “board,” meaning the table or board upon which food was served, made the arrangement quite attractive, especially considering the economic hardships of the day.
In 1964, the home became a single-family residence again. And it is suspected that several original hardware items and some of the boarders’ effects were sold away during a rummage sale held in the basement in March 1968.
We can still enjoy the history of the home thanks to its many original architectural elements.
The home is based upon the classic, double-gabled Queen Anne style of the early 20th century with some notable variants. It has a typical center chimney – notably flanked by scalloped roof shingles, similar to the ones adorning the fascia along the gables. The semi-circular windows at each of the gables are also unique. Even the original foundation is notable, as it was made from local rock and stones.
Inside, there were originally nine rooms, including a reception hall, servant’s room, pantry, laundry room and a fruit room. Other interior appointments included six closets, picture molding, chair railing and plate railing in the dining room.
540 Second Ave. W. is a good home to admire for its early Queen Anne style, or imagining the lives of prominent early 20th-century residents, and conjuring the busy lives of boarders who lived there during the better part of three of the most trying decades in American and local history.
Jaix Chaix is a writer who appreciates history, art, and architecture. You can share ideas and historical facts with him at firstname.lastname@example.org
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