Unearthing the story behind a historic Missoula mansion

Posted at 4:50 PM, Oct 22, 2018
and last updated 2018-10-22 18:59:19-04

MISSOULA – It’s one of those old houses in Missoula that catches your eye and makes you wonder – who lives there? When was it built? And what does it look like inside?

We got the answers to those questions and in the process, learned even more about a storied mansion in Missoula.

It’s been here about as long as Montana’s been a state and she’s weathered the years beautifully. The Raymond House on Raymond Avenue in Missoula’s historic Rattlesnake district was built around 1896.

it still has original stained glass and woodwork with a curved staircase and a library and wonderful detail — and it’s for sale for about $2 million.

“I think this could serve a variety of different family situations, just because there’s so much space so you could do a multi-family generational situation. There’s a guest house you could have someone live in. There’s just lots of room, said Dawn Maddux with Engel and Volkers Real Estate.

Five bedrooms, six bathrooms, a wine cellar, a mother-in-law apartment and more, all on three beautifully groomed city lots.

Recent upgrades carefully matched the modern with the mature to seamlessly merge the centuries. There’s no doubt people lived and loved in this grand house that captures the imagination of those who wander by.

“It’s brought a lot of interest from people in and out of state that are just very curious about it. We’ve had a couple of wedding planners reach of asking if there was any way they could come here,” Maddux said.

“We’ve had photographers reach out and ask if they could do kids shots here. so it’s a home that I think is kind of iconic for Missoula in its uniqueness,” Maddux added.

We wanted to know more about this house and in both the real estate literature and in an old newspaper article, it mentions this is a catalog home.

Sears had the market on mail order homes but they didn’t start doing that until 1908 after this house was constructed.

So we decided to start digging and figure out if this really is a mail order home and if so, from where?

After a trip to the Missoula County records department, where we got a list of all the house’s owners for the past 120 years, we Googled “old Victorian homes of the late 1800’s.”

After pages and pages of images — comparing this house to the other pictures — we finally found a Queen Anne home in Drain, Oregon called the Drain Castle and it has the same architecture as the Raymond house.

The plot thickens. Using that photo, we discovered the Drain Castle was built by George Franklin Barber, an American architect who marketed his deigns worldwide through a series of mailorder catalogs.

Barber is considered one of the most successful domestic architects of the late Victorian period in the United States.

We even found one of this catalogs online called “The Cottage Souvenir #2”. Scrolling through the house plans, we found design number 37 and there it was — the Raymond House.

There’s more though. We found a list of barber designed homes and discovered the Brooks hotel in Corvallis, also built using plan #37.

So what does this all mean? It really is a catalog home, part of its history that could be a story for the next family that calls this historic house, home.

The Raymond Avenue home looks bigger due to additions over the years but the main house remains unchanged. The house is also sometimes called the Pennypacker Mansion.

Barber himself encouraged people to ask for customized changes to their plans to make their homes perfect.

Reporting by Jill Valley for MTN News