Kalispell, Montana, (population 20,000) was originally called Demersville, and was founded in 1887 at a site along the Flathead River, southeast of the present-day city. But Demersville became a ghost town when surveyors from the Great Northern Railroad located the site of today’s Kalispell. The Great Northern Railroad put Kalispell on the map and nurtured the town’s economic growth.
The first locomotive officially arrived in Kalispell on New Year’s Day in 1892. The railroad brought in businessmen, tourists, and pioneers looking for a new start. Kalispell soon emerged as an industrial center as sawmills, flour mills, farmers, and merchants established themselves in the area. Kalispell became the trade center for northwest Montana and eventually the county seat.
Today, high-tech companies, as well as medicine, manufacturing, banking, retail, timber, construction, and service industries are well represented in Kalispell’s commercial mix.
Three museums in Kalispell are housed in local landmarks, including the Hockaday Museum of Art in the town’s original library and the Carnegie Building, built in 1903 and paid for by Andrew Carnegie. The Conrad Mansion Museum, built in 1895, was the home of Kalispell founding father Charles Conrad. Central School, one of the community’s few remaining examples of Richardsonian Romanesque architecture, was built in 1894 and educated students at all levels during its nearly 100 years of service. Today, it is a local history museum run by the Northwest Montana Historical Society.
Kalispell’s three nationally listed historic districts cover more than 80 blocks. A self-guided walking tour takes visitors past 44 residential and commercial properties, including the Great 1899 Northern Railway Depot, which was remodeled in 1928.
Among the city’s annual events is “Museums & Music: Bigger & Better,” a free festival with live music and arts and crafts, sponsored by the three city museums.
Designated a Preserve America Community in August 2008.