How "did" our
Louis "Sam" Bibler, early fundraiser, charter board member and long-time President of the Mansion Board, was the driving force behind restoring the landscape and gardens. With almost no additional help, he planned, maintained and paid for all of the plantings up until the year he died (2002).
"The house was dark; windows boarded over and the grounds overgrown with brush. The dry stone fence was in disrepair. Distinguished visitors such as James J. Hill, the Great Northern Railroad tycoon; Charlie Russell, the Western artist; William T. Hornaday, President of the American Bison Society; along with dozens of servants were but memories of the past.
The glory days were gone. Such was the state of the Conrad Mansion in 1974 when the city of Kalispell accepted the run-down property given by Alicia Conrad Campbell, youngest daughter of Charles E. and wife Alicia (Lettie) Stanford Conrad." (From website page: About Museum)
Sam often began his days in the spring/summer at the Mansion before going to his office. Neighbors would see him start work at the crack of dawn. He was, on occasion, approached by people who assumed he was the groundskeeper, asking if he'd work for them. He'd reply that they couldn't possibly afford him.
As the number of visitors grew, the Mansion Board recognized that access to the gardens was somewhat limited for people with mobility issues (the original pathways were gravel or wood-chipped). The paved sidewalks we have today were donated and installed entirely by Jim Lynch of Pack Co. (later NuPac) that specialized in concrete and paving work (now gone).
Northwest side of Mansion with horse-drawn buggy. circa 1900
"When landscape restoration began in April 1976, not a trace of a gravel path was evident anywhere on the grounds. By use of old photos, the original rock edging was located and uncovered showing the pathway locations buried under approximately 3 inches of topsoil and overgrown by hundreds of trees. A jungle of Maple, Cottonwood, Mountain Ash and Choke Cherry growth, some up to 14 inches in diameter, these trees and undergrowth were removed, the roots and stumps cleared out by heavy equipment and the pathways excavated and backfilled with gravel."
As the 2018 Annuals get planted along the pathways, here's a look back on some of its history...
As a part of the 100th Anniversary year celebration of the Kalispell Rotary Club, the Club paid for the complete repair of the dry stack wall surrounding the Mansion gardens. This was started during Jim Johnson's term as President of Kalispell Rotary and completed during Bill Hendrix's year as President (2005-2006).
In 1974, the City of Kalispell accepted Alicia Conrad Campbell's gift of the Mansion with the condition that no taxpayer money be used to support it. To this day,
the Conrad Mansion Museum is self-supporting and relies solely on monies received by tour fees, fundraisers, memberships, donations and the generosity of our Community.
Delightful story: Dr. M.E.K. Johnson (d.2006), a neighbor, made it a personal challenge in the late 1990's to rid the Mansion grounds of dandelions. So, he would go over with a screwdriver and dig a load out of the lawn every evening while walking his dogs. He felt he had to do it when he knew Sam wasn't going to be there because he was sensitive to Sam's "ownership" of all the work involved. Not certain if the dandelion battle can ever be won, but M.E.K. took great satisfaction in having some impact.
"A long time ago, the Mansion had tree forts!"