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  Comments (0) Total Thursday Apr. 24, 2014
The Conlon House
Photo by Jaix Chaix
Indeed, a pink house is pretty much a landmark all by itself. But stately, historic pink houses are in a league all their own.

The grand home at 305 Fourth Ave. E. was built by James Conlon, who took over the bankrupt Kalispell Mercantile, reaping much success. Conlon intended the home as a gift for his wife Mary. He commissioned architect Joseph B. Gibson to tend to the design and contractor George F. Simmonds to capably build upon the plans.

Conlon’s fine taste and Gibson’s exceptional appointments produced nothing short of a 19th-century mansion in Georgian Revival style. And with just a blush, the home’s classic appointments are abundantly obvious, such as the portico at the middle of the roof, balusters, dentil work, quoins (the “blocks” along the corners), chimneys at both sides, and many other aspects that helped define this strictly symmetrical style.

And if the radial entryway with its Ionic columns did not signify elegance, the porte-cochère at the side of the house certainly provides any still-needed emphasis. This covered side entrance allowed occupants of horse and carriage buggies (and later automobiles) to alight and enter the home without any regard for the weather.

The interior of the home was spared little of high style as well, with leaded glass windows set in mahogany, oak woodwork in the library, Honduran mahogany in a second-floor bedroom, and other exotic woods and finished throughout the home.

These appointments were not just for decoration, but for durability as the original rug installed in 1914 lasted well into the late 1970s – more than 60 years.

And while most of the rooms inside the home may seem typical (bedroom, kitchen, dining room) there is also a rarity these days: a fernery – a room devoted specifically for growing and showcasing ferns.

Conlon and Gibson also applied some ingenuity throughout the home as well. For example, a radiator in the dining room has a food warmer built in to help keep food warm during pending dinner service.

And to dull the labor of getting wood to the fireplace, a fanciful seat in the hallway is actually merely a cover for a woodbox on a dumbwaiter: wood is stacked inside the box in the basement and drawn on the dumbwaiter to the main floor.

The home was later nicknamed “The Embassy” by adoring neighbors. And it’s a fitting moniker considering all of the tea parties, socials and other events held in the home. Quite often “reception committees” would receive 50 or more guests, including some of the most influential people of the day.

Much like the original owners, Mr. B.M. Wohlwend bought the home in 1945 as a gift for his wife Jennie and their daughter, Lois. The home later passed through generations and became the home of Lois, her husband and former state Sen. Matt Himsl and their children as well.

Despite being a rather obvious landmark, the home has been lost in time – at least according to some historical records. For example, many records quite incorrectly list the address as 604 Fourth Ave. E. – it is very much located at 305 Fourth Ave. E. Also, the historical plaque incorrectly lists “J.F. Simmonds” as the builder when it was, in fact, George F. Simmonds.

And while it is simple for a home of this stature to exude pompousness, this one instead bears a history of gracious cordiality, which we can thankfully still appreciate today.

Jaix Chaix is a writer who appreciates history, art, and architecture. You can share ideas and historical facts with him at landmarks@flatheadbeacon.com
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