Kalispell’s Conrad Mansion is 118 years old and it’s still revealing some intriguing secrets.
Hidden drawers in various pieces of antique furniture have been discovered through the years as staff members scour the mansion after the Christmas season and “put it to bed” until the summer tours.
And every once in a while, they’ll find something no one knew about.
“When we clean, someone will say, ‘Hey, do you see this?’” and another secret is revealed, tour guide Mary Miers said.
Last year the guides noticed a hinged board on one of the shelves in the center of a room on the third floor. They lifted the board and to their surprise found a series of pigeon holes marked in pencil with dates and initials such as “C.E.C. 1896-1898.”
Those are the initials of Charles E. Conrad, who founded the city of Kalispell in 1891 and had the mansion built for him and his wife, Alicia, in 1895. The hidden compartments apparently were an early-day filing system.
“This was the inspiration for the tours,” tour guide Mary Meister said, referring to the new “nooks and crannies” tour the begin June 27.
Staff members talked about how exciting it is to find things that have always been there but never had been opened or revealed. The idea quickly took shape for a special tour focusing on opening doors and drawers, lifting lids and going into areas of the mansion that otherwise are off-limits.
Meister and Miers have led the effort to itemize the nooks and crannies.
The new tour will feature more than 100 items not mentioned on regular tours and five areas of the mansion that normally are roped off will be opened.
Tour guests will get to step out on the third-floor veranda were the Conrads held summer parties. They’ll find out what’s inside the enormous picnic boxes that were toted by mansion servants to summer outings, and they’ll get a peek inside the early-day walk-in cooler.
A hammock used by Charles Conrad in his sky office is one item on the special tour. It was found in a closet where the staff believes it had been stored for more than a century before it was discovered.
The children’s nursery, filled with toys from the early 1900s, is another area that will be viewed up close. Among the items in the playroom is a child-sized wood-burning stove.
The guides have been careful not to reveal the entire list of nooks and crannies that will be explored, so they can drum up intrigue for the upcoming tours.
The Conrad Mansion is one of Kalispell’s premier historic buildings. Original family furnishings are located throughout the 26 rooms, including original family clothing and three generations of children’s toys and dolls.
Several items have been returned to the mansion through the years, Meister noted, such as a shaving stand with a pivoting top donated in 2000 that will be featured on the new tour, and a writing desk and trunk that were donated this spring.
The Conrads’ youngest daughter, Alicia Conrad Campbell, lived in the home until 1964. In 1974 she gave the mansion to the city and it was restored to its original beauty.
The Conrad Mansion Museum relies on proceeds from tours and special events, and donations to remain open to the public. It’s located at 330 Woodland Ave.
Features editor Lynnette Hintze may be reached at 758-4421 or by email at email@example.com.
Alicia Conrad, the daughter of Kalispell founders Charles and Alicia Conrad, etched her name into a couple of the mansion windows. No one knows exactly why this was done. (Patrick Cote/Daily Inter Lake)
Mary Meister slides back the cover of a shaving stand that will be among the items shown on the new nooks and crannies tours at the Conrad Mansion. (Patrick Cote/Daily Inter Lake)
Tour guide Mary Miers shows off one of the secret compartments in Charles Conrad's desk at the Conrad Mansion. (Patrick Cote/Daily Inter Lake)
Small dividers signed by Charles E. Conrad and dated as far back as 1896 can be seen on the nooks and crannies tour at the Conrad Mansion in Kalispell. (Patrick Cote/Daily Inter Lake)