First, Best Place

   Columbia Falls forebearers and present-day dwellers like to boast that Columbia Falls is the first township to be platted in the Flathead—it’s the impetus for the namesake of the non-profit dedicated to preserving the history and future of the town: First, Best Place.

   The town certainly was home to some of the most entrepreneurial spirits of the day—local businessmen sent a steamship up the North Fork River in search of coal deposits, the ill-fated expedition ended when the ship capsized and the crew had to walk out of the wilderness. Not to be swayed, entrepreneurs built up some of the finest hotels—three stories plus a basement—the Flathead had to offer. The Gaylord Hotel (pictured below) hosted the goings on in the day and won sole distinction as the town’s only fine hotel when the competing Chandler Hotel burnt to the ground before it was even complete.

   The town utilized the natural resources of the area and logging, farming (the town had a flour mill) and the railroad played heavy into its early history. Though it’s not known exactly who named Columbia Falls main street—Nucleus Avenue—clearly early settlers to the area showed a scientific bend.

    These days, the Discovery Center on 540 Nucleus is host to all the history that is collected on Columbia Falls, and July 19- 25, 2010, the Heritage Days Celebration takes the spirit of the town to the streets in celebration. This year the star of Heritage Days will be the Cosley family (see story on Joe Cosley in the following pages.) With a beautiful downtown district, a fabulous railroad legacy and an energetic community dedicated to its future, Columbia Falls is coming into its own in the 21st century.