Great Northern Railway Depot, Kalispell
On New Year’s Day, 1892, the first steam engine pulled into Kalispell on newly laid tracks. Founded as the main line division point for the Great Northern Railway, Kalispell’s tenure as a railroad town lasted only until 1904, when the main line moved to Whitefish. By that time, however, the town was already established as a trade and financial center as well as county seat. In 1899, at the height of its “rail glory,” the 1892 depot fell victim to an overturned oil lamp. Fire completely destroyed the interior, but the outer brick walls were used in immediate rebuilding. By 1911 the depot, which still served passengers on a branch line, had become dingy and its grounds “irregular and treacherous,” giving travelers a gloomy first impression. Improvements began in 1914 and major renovation in 1929 transformed the area from an eyesore into a show place. The depot’s stucco-clad walls and shortened eaves today reflect the 1929 remodeling. For many years after, the railroad sent trees, shrubs, and flowers for planting on the carefully tended grounds. During much of the depot’s history, railroad employee James M. Montgomery and his wife, Esther, occupied the second-floor apartment. From 1913 until the 1940s, they raised six children there. The station continued to accommodate passengers until 1950, when the “Gallopin’ Goose” made its last run to Kalispell. Today the depot is an enduring reminder of Kalispell’s railroad roots. Now home of the Chamber of Commerce, it is fitting that the building still serves as a place to welcome visitors.