Living and working in Havre’s two oldest homes is a dream come true for me. I grew up
on the north side of Havre, Montana, between the tracks and the river. We are referred to as “river rats”, and not always nicely. The house we lived in amounted to a one-bedroom shack, and I listened to my mother longing to own her own home. So, I grew up believing that home ownership is the way to go.
When I was in the fourth grade, we had to sell magazines as a fundraiser for our school. I always hated doing stuff like that, and didn’t appreciate becoming a Junior salesperson for the Havre School District. Mom took pity on an unsuccessful sales kid (OK, I didn’t really try that hard.) and subscribed to a magazine called Early American Homes. When we got the first issue, Mom took a look at it, said “This isn’t what I thought it would be, I thought it would be about life during Colonial times!” and promptly threw it in the trash. When she wasn’t looking, I plucked it out and took it to my “playhouse” (a converted chicken coop) and opened up a whole new world. A world where homes were lovingly kept and restored, not trashed on. A world full of beautiful antique furnishings, not scrubby hand-me-downs. A world where the homes weren’t messy, things were put in their place, and the owners house proud, not living in a dump on the wrong side of town. The fact that I got to know some fabulous people while I lived there keeps me from entirely hating it, but I made a vow to myself that someday, when I grew up and could have a home of my own, it wasn’t going to be a shack-I wanted an old home to restore and love!
When I was 13, I visited the Conrad Mansion, and fell in love with Victorian era homes. That is when I decided I wanted a Victorian, and years later that dream came true not once, but twice. I’m lucky to have purchased the two oldest homes in Havre, Montana, and I’m proud of them! To differentiate between the two, I gave them names, “The Cottage” for the Boone/Dalrymple home where I live, and “The Mansion”, well, because it is bigger than The Cottage! Because I believe great homes deserve names, collectively they are called Avalon. The DuPonts have Winthertur, Louviers and Serendip; George Washington had Mount Vernon; Jefferson had Monticello; the Madisons their beloved Montpelier; there’s Biltmore House, Sonnenberg, Oak Alley, the list goes on. Emily has Avalon, named after the Arthurian legendary place from which all good things come. The word is believed to be Welsh for “apple”, and these two places are, indeed, the apple of my eye!
I still have that magazine I plucked out of the garbage all those years ago, along with others that came and still others Grandma subscribed to after Mom’s intentionally ran out. When I moved into my first apartment on Second Avenue, which overlooked some of the grandest homes in the Havre Residential Historic District, I would read those magazines over and over again, look out the window and dream that someday I would have a historic home of my very own.
While there is still a lot of work to be done on the homes and grounds, I wouldn’t live anyplace else! This is the place I need to be, and my homes let me know it every day.