The house on the corner at First Avenue East and Eleventh Street East in Kalispell is a fine example of a local-vernacular, Colonial-Revival/Craftsman-style home. But it’s also an example of an historic house with well-kept architecture – and a way of life.
The home was built around 1910 for Ms. Eliza Elliot as a rental property. Notably, her first tenants were the Peter Iverson family (whose lineage runs wide through the Flathead Valley).
In 1923, the home was purchased by its namesake, Mr. Jess Adams and his wife Ila. Jess came out west to Kalispell from Wisconsin in 1910, while Ila arrived a year later from Illinois, much like many others who were migrating west in the early 1900s. Jess and Ila married a few years later in 1914.
During their 21 years in the home, Jess and Ila kept the home much the way it was since it was built, which is no small feat in general, never mind while raising six children in the home (including two of their own).
The home was a place where Ila entertained guests, and Jess tended to the more important matters of life, namely fishing. Jess was an avid angler and could boast of catching a near-record cutthroat trout at Ashley Lake in the 1940s, when several other lunkers were landed that season as well (incidentally, the 16-pound state record was caught in 1955 at Red Eagle Lake).
Meanwhile, Jess’ career as a fireman for the Kalispell Fire Department evolved while the family lived in the home. Jess ultimately achieved the rank of fire chief, before retiring in 1944, when the family moved to a farm west of Kalispell.
As chief of the Kalispell Fire Department, Adams exacted the fight and fears of the World War II era, when he advised citizens during fire prevention week in 1942 that “at a time when the fate of the world hinges on American war production, destruction of life and property by fire is a criminal waste.” Hence, Chief Adams compelled Kalispellans to consider preventing fires and fire damage as their civic duty – and their part in supporting the war effort.
And as a firefighter and chief, Adams frequently tended to fires around town and his own neighborhood, during a time when oils, paraffin wax, electric wiring and other nearly forgotten hazards posed pervasive threats to life and limb and house and home.
Since the time of Adams’ tenure, the home has been kept in fine condition and in mostly original form. Notably, the home still has one of the fading hallmarks of early Kalispell architecture: an open, full-width front porch. Owners current and former have remarkably resisted the temptation to enclose the porch, and have preserved not only the character of the home, but the “front-porch-sitting” way of life from a bygone era (minus a suspiciously missing porch column).
In earlier times, front porches were often crammed with turn-of-the-century excess, which typically included a variety of ferns, flowers, chairs with pillows aplenty, and other accoutrements of outdoor-living indulgence.
While times have since changed, the front porch is still used for sitting and watching life in the neighborhood go by, whether in Adirondack chairs or on the porch swing (all of which boast a red color that completes a patriotic flair).
And so, not only is a unique Colonial/Crafstman mix preserved, but so is front-porch sitting – a forgotten art and pastime of the Flathead Valley.
Jaix Chaix appreciates history and architecture. Share ideas and facts with him at email@example.com or at facebook.com/flatheadvalleylandmarks.
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