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Dr. Alexander D. MacDonald Residence
Photo by Jaix Chaix
Oftentimes, a “landmark” is a landmark because of its location, its history, or maybe its character. Less frequently, a “landmark” is a landmark because of all three, such as the Dr. Alexander D. MacDonald residence on the corner at 140 Fourth Ave. E. in Kalispell.

Sure, any “nice home” – behind a cast iron fence – can lend charm to a neighborhood. However, there is much more to this home than an ideal or idyll location.
In 1891, Dr. A. D. MacDonald left his Canadian homeland to establish a medical practice in Kalispell – the same year the city itself was established. It was an era of unbounded optimism and unstoppable progress. It was almost a new century, which perhaps explains why the MacDonald family decided to replace their older home with this one. It was a way to embrace a new century with a new home, in a new style,
The home was built in 1901 – the same year Vice President Theodore Roosevelt proclaimed, “speak softly and carry a big stick” – and President McKinley was assassinated; the same year the first public telephone debuted in Paris, and New York became the first state to require license plates on “automobiles.”

By now, Dr. MacDonald was already pioneering and prominent, yet he continued in both regards, becoming later chief of a private hospital, a Montana state legislator, and city and county health officer. MacDonald also helped lead and establish the Montana State Tuberculosis Sanitarium, noteworthy for its treatment of plentiful clean, fresh air and high altitudes (and keeping patients outside regardless of the temperature only allowing them indoors to dress and shelter storms).
Mr. and Mrs. MacDonald, were both widely civic-minded. And it should be of little wonder perhaps, that in pursuing their accomplishments, they used the home to entertain their ambitions as much as their guests, whether friends, family, Masons or members of other organizations. For undoubtedly, the charming character of the home, both inside and out, lent itself well to any occasion or consideration.

Indeed, many appointments help create such charm, such as the lead-glass windows, Tuscan-columned porch, ski-style shutters, the bay window, etc. And if forced to conform the house to a particular architectural style, the “shingle style” seems most befitting (with all due exemptions and explanations).

The shingle style prominently features shingle cladding (obviously), a more “colonial” air (hinted here with the center-hall chimney), and appointments that shun the ostentatious over-doings of the Queen Anne style (as “less” was becoming more vogue than “more”).

And what makes this home also unique is how elements of the shingle style have been incorporated on a relatively small scale. Many archetypal shingle style homes are behemoths. Here, this smaller home has an illusionary sense of mass and flow.

For example, architects Forrey and Jones placed tiny oval, ornamental windows inside the gambrel-shaped gable, to make it seem bigger than it really is. And by putting a smaller, roof dormer next to it, the gable seems even larger still. And with a landslide of a long, sloped roof – above an open porch – Forrey and Jones made another unique architectural statement about mass and flow. A statement that fits a home that was built to be “a model of convenience and an ornament to the city.”

Yet while the “conveniences” of 1901 hardly rival the modern conveniences of today, this home remains an “ornament” of the city – a unique landmark of place, history and character.

Jaix Chaix is a writer who appreciates history and architecture. You can share ideas and historical facts with him at landmarks@flatheadbeacon.com. Also visit facebook.com/flatheadvalleylandmarks
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