F.W. Cole House

By Beacon Staff

The house at 503 Fifth Ave. E. in Kalispell proves that wonderful homes come in many shapes, styles and forms. At first glance, the home is clearly a cape; or is it a refined four-square? No matter its form, it is clearly appointed in the Queen Anne style; or is it a partially remodeled Tudor?

Here’s what the house really is: a proud blend of forms and styles that were in fashion in the early 20th century. It’s a fine example of what any good home should do; suit the fancy of its owners and delight its neighbors.

The home was designed by Frank W. Cole, who laid the blueprints and built the house himself, so both he and his wife, and later daughter Dorothy Ann, could live there. And live there they did, for more than 40 years until 1975.

The precise style of the home may seem peculiar, and as peculiar as when the house was built, in 1932, a time when the effects of the Great Depression were still manifest, and “recovery” would not really begin in earnest until a year later, and felt even later in the Flathead Valley.

Undoubtedly, building a home like this, at a time like this, takes more than your average moxie. And Cole certainly seemed to have it, and likely earned it the hard way. He founded Cole’s Machine Works with his father, Frank G. Cole, former manager of Kalispell Iron Works. They founded their company in 1928, barely a year before Black Tuesday, the stock market crash of Oct. 29, 1929, which began the Great Depression.

And likely through perseverance – and much hard work – their shop at 217 First Ave. W. (reached by phone by dialing 1-8-0) kept them busy, sparing them from “the breadline.” Together, father and son were dealers in iron, steel, brass and aluminum castings and sash weights (window technology had yet to develop beyond counter-weights at the time).

Newspaper advertisements in the early 1930s reveal their relative success. And also evidence that Cole’s handiwork at the lathe, albeit crafting saw arbors, barrel stoves, grate bars, and other matters of metal and precision, would soon be applied in wood and windows about his home with similar craft and precision.

The craftsmanship of the home, inside and out, is impeccable. And while unique for its appearance, the home is also unique for its circumstances. It was built by a successful local craftsman, in the thick of tough times, by himself, for himself and his family – and kept proper by the same hands and care for decades. Homes of such kind are indeed rare, no matter where they stand.

Even more rare, is such a home that is as delightful as it is precise – a house that can make you smile as you walk past, no matter the season, nor weather. The large windows with fanciful scroll-work, the ever-so-narrow windows flanking the front door, the bright colors define the house – and defy frowns. Both Mr. and Mrs. Cole were civic-minded, and members of various local organizations, and often entertained family, friends, and guests at the home. And these appointments likely inspired a cheery atmosphere for guests and visitors, before they even crossed the transom.

The F. W. Cole House is a fine example of how different forms and styles, borne of eclecticism and personality as much as craftsmanship, can mix. And also provides an important reminder when it comes to appreciating any historic home. Enjoy it for what it is – whatever that may be.

Jaix Chaix isa writer who appreciates history and architecture. You can share ideas and historical facts with him at [email protected]. Also visit facebook.com/flatheadvalleylandmarks

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