Kalispell Main Steet Historic District (Addendum and Boundary Increase)

As the tracks of the Great Northern Railway inched westward from St. Paul to Seattle, Flathead Valley towns vied for designation as the railway’s division point. In the spring of 1891, however, railroad officials purchased land from the Reverend George Fisher and other early residents, founding a new settlement. The new town of Kalispell was platted in “T-town” form with Main Street perpendicular to one side of the proposed tracks. Some who doubted that the railroad would ever touch the new settlement dubbed it “Collapsetown” and “Wait a Spell,” but even so lots sold for as much as $1,250. Construction boomed on Main Street with typical first generation wooden frame buildings, while many businesses were moved on log rollers four miles across the prairie from once-thriving Demersville. On New Year’s Day of 1892, the tracks officially reached Kalispell. Banners proclaimed “Kalispell and St. Paul United by Steel,” and “beer and whiskey were as free as the fresh air.” Although the railroad moved its division point to Whitefish in 1904, Kalispell continued to prosper. Designated county seat in 1893 and later bolstered by the homesteading era, the lumber industry, and tourism, Kalispell became an important trade, financial, and service center. Today landmark buildings designed by architects Marion Riffo, Fred Brinkman, and George Shanley anchor the district, but interspersed among them in greater numbers are the simple commercial buildings constructed by local masons and contractors. These form the true heart of this historic district, recalling the time when watering troughs, hitching rings, and wooden sidewalks lined the streets.

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Bounded by Center Street to north, 5th Street to south, the north-south running alleys to west of Main Street and 1st Avenue East to east, Kalispell, Montana ~ Private | Public