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Early Kalispell School Preserves Flathead Stories

Community Involvement
Museum at Central School in Kalispell, built in 1894 – Paul Spade

What You Can Do

The echo of student voices reverberates across a century at the Museum at Central School, which preserves stories and classrooms while illuminating the history of the Flathead Valley with permanet and rotating displays. The Museum at Central School has been operated since 1999 by the Northwest Montanan Historical Society.

The museum is housed in a stately stone and brick four-story structure built in 1894 in the Richardsonian Romanesque style of architecture. After serving the area as a school house for 95 years, the building was fully restored in 1998, and converted into a history museum.

Historical Time Period:
1894 to present

One of the earliest substantial structures erected in the Flathead Valley that remains standing and in use today, this building was constructed by local craftsmen in 1894 with locally fired bricks, and locally gathered stone and wood, at a cost of $20,000, or $1 a square foot for the 20,000 square foot school house.

The museum illuminates the history of the Flathead Valley, ranging from Indian culture and early conservation heroes to the turn-of-the-century community of Demersville and the rich legacy of Montana's timber industry. Important historical figures, such as author & statesman Frank Bird Linderman, are featured. Monthly history book club and historic film club are open to all. An expanded gift shop offers a wide selection of Montana-made products and books on Montana history and lore.

Elegant rooms are available for rent at reasonable rates for community events. Call 406 756-8381 for more information.

It is significant that the very first substantial building of brick and mortar that Flathead Valley pioneers chose to erect in the burgeoning town of Kalispell was a school house. For 95 years Central School served many thousands of local youth, mostly at the elementary level, but also at times as a junior high and high school, and for its last 20 years as part of the growing Flathead Community College.

The building continues to serve the community's educational needs now as a local history museum. Architect William White of Great Falls specified a building of locally fired brick with stone trimmings and inside finishings of native wood, oiled and varnished. The cost in 1894 was $20,000. The building is an unusually fine example of the increasingly rare architectural style called Richardsonian Romanesque, with arches, decorative brickwork, and rough-dressed stone belt courses.

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