The Sliter House

By Beacon Staff

Sometimes, it’s easy to overlook the details. But once you take a little time, details unfold – just like the style and history of a landmark home. For example, the “Sliter House,” at 512 Sixth Ave. E. in Kalispell. While it may have a familiar-sounding namesake (Sliter’s Hardware), its style and history have many details that are often overlooked.

The house is an example of “Victorian Vernacular” style. It has features of several popular Victorian styles, but not enough of any one style in particular: It has no predominant features to render it a French Second Empire, Gothic Revival, Italian Villa, Italianate, or a Queen Anne.

Instead, the home has many Victorian elements, such as fine brick and shingle work; a steep, front-facing gable; a section with a mansard roof, and other details – all of which give it an overall Victorian appearance. It is also deep-rooted in Flathead Valley history – and tradition.

The house was built in 1897 by Joseph Horn. Horn was an owner of the Kalispell Mercantile Company (think of it as the 19th-century version of the biggest “shopping mall” in the Flathead Valley). As the Kalispell Mercantile – and Kalispell itself – became more established and successful, Horn built this fine home and helped establish the East Side neighborhood.

In 1905, Horn sold the home to another man who was also becoming more established and successful in the Flathead Valley: Everit Sliter. Sliter arrived in 1889, before Kalispell was founded – and he would later do a little “town founding” himself. Like many other early pioneers, Sliter looked toward the future and planned ahead.

During his first year, he worked at the Ramsdell Brothers general store at Egan (a long-lost town of the valley), yet spent practically all of his money to purchase land. To “get by,” Sliter split rails for fence posts, lived in a root cellar with his dog (where they shared meals from 26 deer) and bartered the deerskins for other necessary provisions.

Real estate would serve Sliter quite well. His 160-acre homestead would become the town of Bigfork. He platted and filed the original townsite in 1902, and the first addition in Bigfork was filed in 1903. After several years at Bigfork, having established the town, an orchard, a general store, a hotel, and serving as the first postmaster, Sliter and his wife Lizzie decided to move to Kalispell.

In making their move, Sliter bartered. But instead of bartering deerskins, Sliter bartered real estate. That is, Sliter and Horn bartered and traded places: Sliter took ownership of Horn’s house in Kalispell, and Horn took over Sliter’s general store and hotel in Bigfork.

In 1908, the Sliters moved into the house and made it their new home. The house also served as the location for Sliter’s real estate business from 1909 until 1917. Indeed, some important, early 20th-century real-estate transactions were created or conducted inside the home.

And the Sliter House is a good reminder that when it comes to architecture, details can be more interesting than making a big impression. And that when it comes to history and tradition, such as bartering, it’s not “what” happened, but “how” things were done, that matters more.

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

Take the “Historic Homes of Kalispell” Course
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(406) 756-3832 or enroll online at fvcc.edu.