The Talbot bank building, constructed in 1892, is one of several original downtown Columbia Falls buildings. James Talbot and a group of Butte businessmen set up a townsite here in 1890 speculating that the Great Northern Railroad would build through the area. Although that didn’t happen, Columbia Falls grew steadily, with help from tireless promotion by Talbot, and relying on the strong mining and timber industry that was already well established.
Local historian Johanna Hardesty talks about the history of the Red Bridge across the Flathead River. The bridge was built in 1912 just a few blocks east of James Talbot’s sprawling mansion estate. The bridge survived a major flood in 1913 and again in 1964.
In 1895, James Talbot’s Townsite Company donated 160 acres of land for construction of a state Soldier’s Home just outside Columbia Falls. Fred Whiteside designed and built the building for just under $10,000. Later buildings were added including a women’s dormitory, hospital, barns, power plant, laundry, chapel, and offices.
The Soldier’s Home campus retains much historic character and integrity, and is in excellent condition thanks to efforts of local legislator Bill Beck. Though the original Old Main remains empty and awaits a new use, the Chapel and barns still stand and are in good condition and operating.
There is an excellent view of the mountains and the Flathead River from the Crow’s Nest up in the center gable end.