LANDMARKS: Iseminger/Graham House

By Beacon Staff

“Style” and “category” are not friends. The former tries to outdo the latter – while the latter tries to keep the status quo. And despite their similarities and occasional agreement, theirs is a tumultuous relationship, one that often yields confusion for everyone else around them.

And so it is for the Iseminger/Graham House at 611 Second Ave. E. in Kalispell. At first, the home seems to fit quite nicely into the category of “Craftsman” or “Bungalow.” However, in many ways, the house is more representative of the “Colonial Revival Style” (so much for style and category pretending to get along).

The 1877 Philadelphia Centennial is often cited as the inspiration for a renewed interest in American colonial architecture. And by the early 20th-century, when this home was built, the style was becoming popular, along with a growing sense of nationalistic pride.

Some of the hallmarks of the Colonial Revival style found on the exterior of the home include simple architectural lines; a strict sense of symmetry; and plain details, such as unsophisticated clapboard siding. Other stylistic elements found here include a centered entrance, a porch with classical columns, and modest, dentil trim under the roof eaves.

In 1908, Halbert and Marilla Iseminger sold their rural farm, moved into town and purchased this home, which was a fine example of a popular and proud style. Soon the extended Iseminger family had resided at the home, notably Halbert Jr., who owned the home in 1909.

Incidentally, the Iseminger’s owned The Men’s Fashion Shop in Kalispell, a place where style and category mattered more perhaps than elsewhere. The Isemingers were clever advertisers, and often used intriguing tactics for their advertisements.

For example, one of their ads, in explaining their offerings and service, used various type settings and sizes to make one thing look like another: to wit, “it might seem to you that a MAD-MAN had been plunging on the clothing market … generous sized BITES have been made off the regular prices…we believe in conservation. So do Messrs. TAFT WILSON and ROOSEVELT.” Despite appearances, at first glance, a mad-man did not bite Presidents Taft, Wilson, or Roosevelt – although one thing was made to look like another for the sake of fashion and style.

Several members of the Iseminger family helped run the business, and also lived in the home for several years. In 1923, the Isemingers sold the home to John and Elsie Graham. The style of the home, with its nationalistic tendencies, likely had a particular appeal to John, who was a navy veteran of WWI.

John operated a furniture and appliance store. And the Grahams raised their son in the home as well. Both the elder Grahams remained in the home until their passing: Elsie passed away in 1955, and John remained in the home until he passed away in 1967, leaving behind a legacy of more than 44 years in the same residence.

It’s a legacy that fits neatly into the categories of “thrift” and “well-kept” – which we can all appreciate, especially when it comes to a landmark, historic home.

Jaix Chaix is a writer who appreciates history and architecture. You can share ideas and historical facts with him at landmarks@flatheadbeacon.com. Also visit facebook.com/flatheadvalleylandmarks

Take the “Historic Homes of Kalispell” Course
This April, Jaix will teach a course about “Landmarks” and historic homes of Kalispell at Flathead Valley Community College. Read more in the FVCC Community Education Classes brochure, call
(406) 756-3832 or enroll online at fvcc.edu.

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