125 Years of the Conrad Mansion

Museum will offer new events through 2021 to celebrate anniversary

By Maggie Dresser
Dracula, one of the Conrad Mansion’s cats, strolls by the gate to the mansion in Kalispell on Sept. 25, 2020. The mansion is celebrating its 125th anniversary. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

In honor of the Conrad Mansion’s 125th anniversary, the museum is featuring several new exhibits, including the Lettie Conrad Wild West Tour, The Conrads Go to the Ball, A Stroll in the Garden Tour and more.

In the historic mansion-turned-museum, built by Kalispell’s founder Charles E. Conrad and his wife, Alicia “Lettie” Conrad, visitors are invited to learn about the home’s history and even attend a ghost tour on Oct. 23 and 24. In the haunted mansion, Charles takes the form of cigar smoke, while Lettie returns as a little girl. Charles died in 1902, and Lettie died in 1924, both in their former bedroom at the mansion.

The Conrads’ youngest daughter, Alicia, lived in the 26-room, 13,000 square-foot mansion through the 1960s and donated the mansion to the City of Kalispell in 1974.

While many historic mansions do not have the original household items, 90% of the Conrad Mansion contains its original furnishings as a result of Alicia’s Great Depression-era hoarding tendencies.

“Lots of the locals remember the yard,” Museum Director Brit Clark said. “It was common after the Depression.”

Old-fashioned clothing, furniture, children’s toys, a sometimes free-falling elevator and even original Thomas Edison light bulbs from 1900, which still light up today, are among the original items Alicia left at the mansion.

Built in 1895, Charles only lived in his home for seven years before dying of complications of diabetes and tuberculosis. The same architect who designed Lake McDonald Lodge in Glacier National Park designed the home.

Originally from the South, Charles arrived in Fort Benton in 1868 where he and his brother, William, became successful businessmen and operated a mercantile company transporting supplies in wagons and along the Missouri River, becoming very wealthy.

After passing through the Flathead Valley on his way to Spokane with Lettie, Charles established the Kalispell Townsite Company and founded the town in 1891.

“When the city was founded in 1891, it was gorgeous but it was uncivilized,” said Marea Dupea, a mansion tour guide. “It would have been a rough-and-tumble town without them.”

While Charles helped establish the town with banking, real estate and other business ventures, Lettie focused on establishing a community.

While there are only two full-time residents who currently live at the Conrad estate, an indoor calico cat named Sweetie Pie and a black outdoor cat named Dracula, visitors tour the mansion during its normal season between May and October.

The museum is operating at a reduced capacity and masks are required. It will also accommodate private tours. Kids under 18 are free through 2021.

Tours include A Stroll in the Garden Historical Walking Tour on Tuesdays from 5:30 p.m. to 6:15 p.m. through October; Lettie Conrad and the Wild West on Mondays from 5:30 to 7 p.m. and the second Saturday of every month from 4 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.; The Ghost Tours on Friday, Oct. 23 and Saturday, Oct. 24 from 6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.; and The Conrads Go to the Ball: Evening Wear from 1890-1970 on Thursdays from 5:30 to 7 p.m. through November.

For more information, visit www.conradmansion.com.


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