Houston/Parker House

Like some of its early residents, the house on Third Avenue East wasn’t originally from Kalispell

By Jaix Chaix

The house at 604 Third Ave. E. in Kalispell may appear unassuming nowadays. But it marks a bold time in local history, when the steamboat ceded to the railroad, and Demersville ceded to Kalispell.

Like some of its early residents, the house on Third Avenue East wasn’t originally from Kalispell. It was built in Demersville and later moved to Kalispell – just like many early settlers.

The 19th-century boomtown of Demersville was a military post and popular steamboat port serving the north end of Flathead Lake. The area was originally known as “Gregg’s Landing” and later took its name from Telesphore-Jacques Demers, a native of Montreal who helped develop the area.

With all of its progress, most residents assumed that the Great Northern Railway would certainly establish a division point at Demersville. However, railroad officials instead chose Kalispell.

Ironically, Demersville boomed with the popularity of one form of transportation – and met its fate with the advent of another. People left Demersville for Kalispell almost overnight, taking with them their possessions, livestock and, in some cases, even their homes.

According to property records, the home at 604 Third Ave. E. was moved about four miles from Demersville and relocated to Kalispell in 1909.

In 1910, Dr. William Taylor purchased the relocated home. Dr. Taylor served local patients and was also a surgeon and county coroner. He held his practice until 1914 when yet another interesting trade involving the home took place. This time, the house didn’t change location – just doctors.

That is, Dr. Taylor swapped houses and medical practices with Dr. Hugh Houston, who practiced in Whitefish. Much like the house itself, Dr. Houston made a new start in Kalispell (several months before he moved into the home, his wife died from trauma suffered in a tragic hunting accident).

Dr. Houston set up his medical practice in a bedroom downstairs and lived in the house with his three daughters and later, his second wife. Needing more space, the family added the kitchen, dining room and porch.

The Houstons sold the home in 1927 to William Parker, who bought it as a Christmas present for his wife, Mable. Parker was in the business of developing refineries and had traveled extensively. Nonetheless, the home remained in the Parker family and was passed down to Parker’s daughter and later his granddaughter.

The unique appearance of the house, and its mark of a vintage era, is perhaps mostly due to the mirror-image gabled dormers above the full front porch.

The front porch, with balusters and columns that frame the front entrance, may appear modest nowadays, but marks a time long since past when the front porch stylishly let residents be closer to nature and neighbors.

While the back porch and carport are certainly 20th-century additions, some less-than-obvious traits of its original era are still intact. As the Victorian era gave way to later architectural styles, symmetry and geometry played an important role in defining both the structure and appearance of a home.

At the side of the house, for example, the deliberate, pyramid layout of the windows is obvious. The three windows on the first floor mirror the broad base of the foundation. The two windows on the second floor mark the corners of the roof eaves. And the one window in the attic marks the peak of the gabled roof.

And while the home may have assumed a more humble stance today, it’s nonetheless a bold reminder of local history and transitions of technology and time.

Jaix Chaix is a columnist and author of Flathead Valley Landmarks and other local history books that are available for sale at the Flathead Beacon at 17 Main St. in Kalispell.