Federal Building, Kalispell

Despite extreme weather, unstable material markets, a scarcity of labor, and congested railway traffic caused by World War I, this imposing public building was completed on schedule in 1917. Originally built to house the U.S. Post Office, Forest Service, Land Office, and the Weather Bureau, its appearance represents the influential presence of the federal government in the Flathead Valley. James A. Wetmore of the U.S. Treasury Department was the supervising architect. The Kalispell Bee described the Colonial Revival style building as one of the state’s most beautiful edifices. Its interior was a vision of “marble, hardwood, polished brass and gleaming walls.” The first floor housed the post office and postal workroom, outfitted with “every thought for convenience,” including shutters and peep holes through which the postal inspector could secretly view the workers. The lobby was paved with red tile, and an iron gate across the stairway to upper level federal offices allowed customers after-hour access to postal boxes. A spiral staircase led to the roof, where the weather observer’s instruments were installed. The observation equipment was connected to the weatherman’s office by cables so he could “tell all about the weather without going outdoors.” Sensitive expansion in 1978 by the Flathead County Library preserved the building’s outward grandeur, highlighted by elliptical windows, balustraded roof, and overall symmetry. Although the interior was significantly altered, a few original interior finishings do remain intact, including the red tile paving.

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247 1st Avenue East, Kalispell, Montana ~ Public