In 1905, a group of Bitterroot Valley residents combined with Chicago financiers and began digging a seventy-five-mile irrigation ditch along the valley’s east side. The plan was to create an apple-growing center of national importance. Although the “apple boom” eventually left a legacy of abandoned apple orchards scattered throughout the valley, between 1908 and 1912 Big Ditch developers heavily advertised and promoted the venture. “Boosterism” brought homesteaders and fortune-seekers to Hamilton and vicinity. One of these newcomers was Spanish American War veteran Othar C. Wamsley, a carpenter and builder by trade, who arrived in Hamilton in 1908. Wamsley built local homes during his ten-year residency, but most noteworthy among them is this Hamilton landmark, which he built for himself in 1909. The octagonal-shaped residence is a rare twentieth-century example of an unconventional architectural form that gained limited popularity across the nation in the mid 1800s. Wamsley House is one of only three residential examples found in Montana. The interesting design incorporates Doric columns and other classical elements ornamenting the wraparound porch as well as a right-angled bay above the main entry suggesting the Prairie style, a solidly American architectural tradition. Wamsley’s choice of the octagonal house form was a statement of his own courageous initiative to be different and experiment with the unusual. This individualistic attitude mirrors the speculative atmosphere that characterized Hamilton during the height of the “apple boom.”

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200 North 5th Street, Hamiliton, Montana ~ Private