First Presbyterian Church of Whitefish

Not long after the Great Northern Railway announced its plans for a division point in Whitefish, Presbyterian missionary E. M. Ellis and Kalispell minister Alexander Pringle traveled by bicycle and rowboat to visit the site. Soon after, Reverend Pringle canvassed logging and railroad camps for donations of cash and labor to construct a sanctuary. By December 1903, Whitefish had its first church. The First Presbyterian Church moved several times in the early years. By 1919, it had once again outgrown its building; to accommodate congregants, the church held services in the Masonic Lodge while planning a new house of worship. Under direction of physician and active church member W. W. Taylor, the building committee devised detailed drawings, which the Spokane architectural firm Rigg and Vantyne modified only slightly. The building committee chose a Romanesque Revival style design, considered less ostentatious and more appropriate for a Protestant church than the competing Gothic tradition. Romanesque Revival churches featured masonry construction, heavily arched windows, bands of stylized decoration, and towers—in this case a Norman style square tower that serves as the building’s main entrance. The one-story building featured a large daylight basement with a high ceiling, designed to provide clearance for a full-sized basketball court. Community members donated the large art glass windows ornamenting the sanctuary. Among them are two purchased by Japanese railroad workers for $700 in honor of churchwoman Elizabeth Peck, who taught the men English. A tribute to Peck, the windows also commemorate Whitefish’s once-thriving Japanese community and the church’s long history of community service.

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301 Central Avenue, Whitefish, Montana ~ Private