New Owner Outlines Plans to Refurbish Somers Mansion

By Beacon Staff

It seems that anyone who has spent some time in Somers, knows at least a little bit of history about the storied yellow mansion on the hill that overlooks the old company town.

But to its new owner Christy Manson, the Somers Mansion was just an old home she fell in love with. She had no idea of its deep roots in the community until a few days after she made an offer last November, when the sale ended up on the front pages of local newspapers.

“I never anticipated the huge spotlight on me when I bought it,” she said last week. “It’s overwhelming.”

Built in 1903, the mansion was owned by the family of John O’Brien, the first manager of the Somers Lumber Co. Over the years, the three-story mansion has been used as office space, a hotel and a private residence. In 1946, it was purchased by the McDevitt family and was closed to the public for the next six decades. In 2005 it was sold to Christin Didier and was heavily damaged by a storm in 2007. It quickly fell into disrepair and Didier was evicted in 2012. While the first and second floors are relatively untouched, the third floor is in deplorable condition because of a leaky roof.

It was put up for sale in November 2012. The asking price was $399,900; shockingly low considering the 14-bedroom home sits on 5 acres of land overlooking Flathead Lake. Local residents, including Brad Nelson who started a Facebook group called Save The Somers Mansion, were worried a developer would buy the property and knock the house down.

It was around that time that Susanna Eaton saw the real estate listing and thought the house would be perfect for her friend Manson, an international flight attendant from California. For the last few years, Manson has been splitting her time between California and Montana and hopes to retire in the Flathead. When she saw the listing, she decided to take a look at the house. It didn’t take long for her to fall under the old home’s spell.

“Driving up the hill (to the mansion), it just felt like I was coming home,” she said. “When I walked in I said, ‘Oh my God, I love this home, I want this home.’”

Within a few days, she made an offer to pay the full $399,900 for the house and a few days after that, the home ended up in the newspapers. Manson soon realized she wasn’t the only one who loved the house. The sudden attention was concerning to Manson, who considers herself a very private person.

“I’m going to do whatever I can to preserve what I can,” she said. “But it seems that the whole town thinks it has a say in what happens.”

For months rumors about the new owner and the mansion have been spreading, especially on social media. Nelson said as winter approaches, people have grown worried about the building’s future. He said the locals only want to help.

Manson said she appreciates the offers of assistance, but says she’s worried about accepting help from people she doesn’t know. She added that the home has been broken into on multiple occasions this year and some items have gone missing,

“I think people thought a millionaire would come in and wave a magic wand, but I can’t do that,” she said. “I just want people to be assured that I’m not going to tear it down. I put everything I have into buying the home and I’m going to keep working on it.”

She said she hopes to have the roof replaced in the next few weeks before winter sets in. She also said that rumors about the house falling apart are exaggerated. A home inspector looked at the house after she purchased it and said it’s in stable condition. Manson said much of the damage on the third floor is only cosmetic.

“People get emotional and overdramatic about the situation,” Eaton said. “It’s a well built house and it’s in fine shape.”

Manson plans on continuing work next year and eventually living on the second and third floors. The first floor she said could be used as a wedding and event venue. She said the house will be refurbished, but it’s just going to take time.

“It’s a lot of house and it’s going to take a lot of capital,” she said.