Sometimes, take it easy and unwind is the mantra for vacation. Whether it's a mini-break for a long three day weekend, or part of a grander getaway out West. When taking it slow sounds like a good option, you can explore Flathead history via museum or by staying at or overnight at one of the historic inns, lodges or chalets of Western Montana.

   In Whitefish, the Stumptown Historical Society is the place to see. North of downtown Whitefish by the train tracks, their home is the lovely Depot Buiding, in the Tudor style of architecture. Their Facebook page has the latest goings on in the city. Their website has their historical downtown pdf and is worth a peek. From boarding houses to mining to the wacky world of early skiing and ski resorts. 

     There’s no finer place for a peek into the past than Kalispell’s Museum at Central School, home of the Northwest Montana Historical Society. Located in the original, and beautiful, brick Central School—you can see back into the early days of the Flathead. From the days of the steamboat and the area’s early roots as Demersville (the township that was abandoned for the more convenient location of Kalispell) to the days of logging (“Sand Monkeys, Tie Hacks and River Pigs”), six permanent exhibits run the gamut of early experience. Indians of Montana, early settler tales as told by Frank Bird Linderman and charming pictures of downtown Kalispell line the walls and exhibit areas. This spring and summer you can learn the history of Boy Scouts. The Museum is open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.

     Just down the road, the Conrad Mansion Museum gives a more personal peek into one of the first homes in the area. Original construction of the Conrad Mansion was completed in 1895, so this gorgeous house truly dates back to founding times. There’s nothing like exploring parlors, drawing rooms and great rooms to give you a feel for how early settlers lived—and what they lived without. The mansion is unique because original furnishing and accessories decorate the rooms, along with original family clothing, toys and dolls. Tours start May 15; call for special appointments or to arrange a group tour.

     If you like to take your history with your lodging—opportunities abound. The Historic Tamarack Lodge started as the original visitor’s center for Glacier National Park in 1907, but found it’s permanent calling when it was relocated to its current location just outside of Glacier Park in 1949. Between the grand timbers and the huge fireplaces, you’ll feel cozy as you collect historical tidbits about early Glacier Park visits.

     Just down the road, the Belton Chalet welcomes you, just as it welcomed people over 95 years ago. Built in 1913 as a grand tourist hotel’ for railroad visitors to Glacier Park, this site has been home to plenty of area history—during the Great Depression it housed CCC crews as the constructed the Going to the Sun Road. In honor of the Glacier Centennial, the Belton Chalet will host several centennial events—but guests who really love history will enjoy the Glacier Grand Heritage Tours—modeled after early tours into Glacier Park during the 20s and 30s, groups will explore glacier as early tourists did—by horseback, boat and on foot.

     There’s more history nestled amongst the mountains at the Izaak Walton Inn near the town of Essex. Originally built in 1939 for use by railroad personnel, this beautiful building is home to a great array of railroad history, via old maps, routes and photographs that adorn the walls of this inn. Soak in the sounds of passing railroad cars as you reminisce about the part that railroads played in the construction of the West and of Glacier National Park.

      If Americana and eclectic are more your style, take a drive along the shore of Flathead Lake until to reach the waterfront town of Polson, where the Miracle of America Museum features family friendly exhibits that appeal to kids, or the kid in all of us. It’s a place where you can spend the whole day wholly entertained.  For motorcycle buffs, the 1914 four-cylinder Indian on display is sure to please. And this spring means the unveiling of the 1926 classic Cars display—featuring a 1926 Model T Ford Wrecking Truck known as Tow-Mater, along with a 1926 Model T Ford Racer known as Lightning Macqueen.


Copyright Power of the Pen, 2009