Thompson Falls enjoyed a growth spurt and a new sense of stability at the dawn of the twentieth century, underscored by the construction of several substantial brick buildings. Charles Weber’s general mercantile store was the town’s second building constructed of locally manufactured masonry. Built between 1900 and 1903, its dual residential/commercial function and simple design typify the utilitarian architecture of small western towns of the period. A continuous band of inlaid fleur-de-lis below the roofline supplies the only adornment. In 1906, Weber built the cold air well and storehouse at the rear of the building. It is the town’s last remaining commercial evidence of a unique natural phenomenon tapped by early settlers. In digging wells for water, currents of icy air ranging from 55 to 33 degrees Fahrenheit were discovered issuing from a porous layer of gravel at a depth of thirty to forty feet. Eventually nearly every business owner made use of this resource, building an insulated shed over a cold air shaft for the storage of perishable goods. The system worked until modern technology stepped in: backwater from the hydroelectric dam, built less than a decade later, blocked the cold air currents. From the early 1900s to 1917, Weber’s service as postmaster made the store a place visited daily. The store continued to play a key role in the economic life of the community until Weber’s death in 1940.

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510 West Main Street, Thompson Falls, Montana ~ Private