Hard times during the Great Depression intensified in Kalispell because of an influx of new residents from the drought-stricken Midwest. A thirty percent increase in school-age children during the 1930s and residential development of the northwest section of town precipitated the need for new and expanded grade school facilities. Construction of the Russell School was part of a larger citywide project funded by a Public Works Administration (PWA) federal grant and school district bonds. It provided much-needed work for many local men, most of its accomplished during peak unemployment in the winter of 1938-39. For every two workers employed on the project, five other family heads made a living producing and supplying materials. Designed by architect Fred Brinkman, the Russell School is one of only a few Art Moderne style buildings in Kalispell. The original building included six classrooms, offices, and a basement playroom in a plan designed to be flexible for later expansion (accomplished in 1950 and 1955). Cream-colored brick contrasts with darker window trim, and chromium grillwork adds refinement to the massive front entrance. The original interior features include hardwood classroom floors, transoms, built-in cabinets, and decorative stencils in the vestibule. The school, then located outside the city limits, opened in the fall of 1939 as the Northside School or North West School. In January of 1940, it received a more distinguished name, recognizing Charles M. Russell, Montana’s beloved cowboy artist, who preserved some of the state’s most colorful history in pencil and paint.

Images

Russell School Russell School. Front view of the school, looking northeast on West Nevada Street. Source: Montana State Historic Preservation Office Creator: Photographer unidentified Date: 1992
Russell School Russell School. Side view of the school, facing west to northwest on 2nd Avenue West North. Source: Montana State Historic Preservation Office Creator: Photographer unidentified Date: 1992
Russell School Russell School. Front to side view of the school building, facing west to northwest on 2nd Avenue West North. Source: Montana State Historic Preservation Office Creator: Photographer unidentified Date: 1992
Russell School Russell School. View of front entry to the building, facing north to northwest on West Nevada Street. Source: Montana State Historic Preservation Office Creator: Photographer unidentified Date: 1992
Russell School Russell School. Front to side view of the school, facing north to northeast near the corner of West Nevada Street and 3rd Avenue West North. Source: Montana State Historic Preservation Office Creator: Photographer unidentified Date: 1992
Russell School Russell School. Side to rear view of the school building, facing east to southeast on 3rd Avenue West North. Source: Montana State Historic Preservation Office Creator: Photographer unidentified Date: 1992
Russell School Russell School. Side view of the school building, facing east on 3rd Avenue West North. Source: Montana State Historic Preservation Office Creator: Photographer unidentified Date: 1992
Russell School Russell School. Rear view of the school, facing south to southeast near the corner of 3rd Avenue West North and West Wyoming Avenue. Source: Montana State Historic Preservation Office Creator: Photographer unidentified Date: 1992
Russell School Russell School. Rear view of the school, facing south on West Wyoming Avenue. Source: Montana State Historic Preservation Office Creator: Photographer unidentified Date: 1992

Location

227 West Nevada Street, Kalispell, Montana | Private

Metadata

The Montana National Register Sign Program, “Russell School,” Historic Montana, accessed February 9, 2023, https://historicmt.org/items/show/516.