This Montana Mansion


Once upon a time there was this house.

This house was built by a guy from Wisconsin named S.E. Larabie.  Mr. Larabie moved west and became a successful grocer in town then soon after an even more successful banker.

Back in it’s day, in the mid to late 1800’s, this house and the property it once graced, occupied almost half of a city block in the town of Deer Lodge, Montana.

This house, during the Depression had its top two floors taken off and parted out to make two homes next-door to it.




This is a house that in the forties had a remodel and then later got divided into four apartments. 

This is the very house that in 2007 my mom and I stood in front of, in the cold February snow and salivated over, tried to peek in windows and snapped way too many of pictures of. 

*Picture shown above is the front or street side of the house.




All the while dreaming of what it might look like inside.  Dreaming of restoring such a gorgeous residence.  And of course that went hand in hand with dreaming of winning the lottery.  For you see, in 2007 this grand old home of Deer Lodge, Montana was for sale.

*West side of the home.



About a year later my mom told me it had sold.  At first I was apprehensive about being excited for this poor old house, because like a lot of the big old homes, they tend not to get the treatment they deserve and this one had already had such a hard life. 

However, I changed my tune about the whole deal and became very, very elated when she said the new owners had plans to try and restore what they could back to its original glory. 

*Eastside of house.



Fast forward to May 19th, 2011 and let me show you what I saw when I actually got to go inside for a tour – A personal private tour from the owners themselves, the gracious, warm and unassuming friends of my mom and dad’s:  Book author, Mr. Warner Bair II and his talented woodworking/home-renovation-expert and lovely wife Katherine.

*Street side of house.



This was my never-in-my-wildest-dreams view of the other side of the front doors.




If I went no further than here I could have died a happy girl.




The front hall.




This was once a double entry – two sets of double doors, like a bank or library.  It worked like an elaborate storm door, sealing the front entry and hall from the cold when people went in or out.




Notice the original paint showing through in hall/foyer ceiling on the right?  It looked to me to be the same terra cotta color used in floor tile.  And a half-tone of that same terra cotta color on the entry ceiling (to the left) closest to the outside doors.   The owners are going to get those paint colors color-matched and redo the hall and entry ceilings to those original colors.




The front hall fireplace.




Main staircase in front hall.  (I’m standing on the tile).




Ascending the stair case I turn and look down to the oak railing and imagine cattle barons and their wives, copper barons or baronesses for that matter and countless others also holding this handrail on their journey to the third floor.

Yah, something very cool was once on the third floor…




I stopped on the landing and looked up.

What is now a skylight was once a stained glass creation. 

It was the center piece of the third floor ballroom floor.  Remember, the third and fourth floor was removed long ago and so the second floor is now the top.

A portion of east, north and west side of the house on that third floor contained good sized windows letting light cascade into the ballroom, down through the skylight and onto these stairs.

Holy.  Cow.  I can almost picture it.

If you look to the left there would have been more railing and the stairs going up to the ballroom.

I hear tell this place was known for a party or two .




Standing on the second floor looking back towards the stairway.

See the skylight?  That is all original wood.  Isn’t it amazing that it’s still intact?   Remarkably, so much of the woodwork throughout the entire house wasn’t removed or painted over. 

The second floor contains various bedrooms and bathrooms and a couple of now home-office and library spaces.




In trying to spare my gracious hosts more intrusion than necessary, I chose not to photograph the rooms here on the second floor but I could not resist getting a picture of the stained glass transom in this window.  This beautiful window is located on the front of the house.

Oh the beauty…just no words!




Back down the stairs.




To the right of the front doors – The Ladies Parlor, now their dining room.







This stained glass transom is located above the “bump-out” window on the front of the house.



The ladies parlor (now dining room) fireplace.




It’s another original fireplace, as is the case with a lot of things in this house.




View from the original dining room (now kitchen) looking into Ladies Parlor.  One huge wooden bi-fold door separated the two rooms.




A flooring issue gave way to this creative solution here on the once dining room, now kitchen, floor.

While I’m on the subject of floors, if I remember right, the majority of wood flooring found throughout is original.




Twelve foot ceilings seemed to be the norm for rooms in this house.

Regarding the kitchen ceiling shown here, Mrs. Bair told me they’ve found someone who can recreate the ceiling pieces that need replacing.

Awesome is a word that doesn’t really suffice here.




Yet another incredible piece of work – One of my favorites. 




I wish I would have thought to have someone stand in this and other doorways….they are soooo tall.  I might be way off but I think this one off the original dining room and most all the others are nine feet tall.




Across the hall, from above picture, is this room. 




It was once the Morning Room.   A place to have your breakfast.  Or sit with a cup of coffee or tea perhaps and try and wake up.

Catching a theme here, or a lack thereof?  Just about every room contains a feature window with a different transom of stained glass.

These stained glass pieces of art may or may not be Tiffany.  They don’t know yet but are looking into it. 


Back to the entryway again….and to the left of the front doors is this:




Not sure what they would have technically called this room back then. 

Maybe the Gentleman’s Parlor?  Or Den?  Living room?  Not sure.

Anyone have the techno term for it?  




While taking this picture in particular I couldn’t help but imagine that the male guests would retire to this room across the hall from the dining room to have their brandy and cigars.  While the women crossed the dining room and sat in the Ladies Parlor behind that big wooden bi-fold door and talked about them. 

Come on…you know they did.  Winking smile




Pretty masculine room isn’t it?  And cozy!




Poor men.




The feature window for the manly-man room…




This window also faces the front of the house.




Stained glass over the mantel. 

You’ll notice it looks a bit “milky”.  It’s because the stained glass is in need of repair and is covered with plastic sheeting to protect the wood inside from the elements outside.








Is this not just the ugliest piece of work you’ve ever seen?! 





Holes in the the underside of the arch are where spindles once were.  Warner and Katherine heard one of the past owners took them out and burnt them; the guy didn’t want to dust them.  For real.

They have plans to have new spindles made and reinserted making the fireplace/mantle area look exactly like it used to.

The new owners rock, don’t they?!








I have no adjectives left in me.



This brings me/us back to the front doors and that wonderful tile work on the floor.  I noticed something while getting this picture.   The center of the tile motif looked familiar for some reason…I’d seen it somewhere before…




I went back in the Ladies Parlor and saw that the fireplace surround and some woodwork in the original dining room had these great carvings.  They may not match exactly and honestly if they did it would be too matchy-matchy for me anyway.  I do think it’s a wonderful touch the original craftsman did to tie the rooms together like that. 

These carvings may have been elsewhere but I was so over whelmed I didn’t notice.




There was so much more to this house that I opted not to include; like the room that was the original kitchen, the east enclosed sun-porch area, the original library on the second floor, the extremely neat basement with its unusually high  ceilings and so much more.

It goes without saying, that I would have been beside myself with immense joy to explore the interior in its sad state back in 2007 but to walk those restored rooms with the owners of the house, getting a personal private tour was too much.  So much so that I know you’ll think me a sap-cry baby when I tell you that towards the end of my tour, when it finally sunk in that I was actually inside that home and seeing what it must have originally looked like, that my eyes got teary.

No, that wasn’t awkward. 

Course then that led to more teary eyes because:

  1. I knew they knew I was unstable and at any moment they were going to ask me very nicely to leave and I wanted to stay for eternity. 
  2. I had spoiled a secret plan by excitedly voicing out loud that I had my spot all picked out in the southeast corner of the basement.
  3. I wanted to stay for eternity.

Mr. Bair, Warner, has published two works of fiction.  He generously gave me a copy of the first oneKismet and it is currently available on Amazon.  I’ve yet to start it, but soon! 

His latest book, “The Manse”, not yet released, has this house as the subject of the story and has the same characters from the “Kismet” book in it.  I even got to see the mock up of the book cover for it!  Well, you’ve kinda seen it too as it looks a lot like the fifth picture I’ve shown in this post.  

It goes without saying the next book will have special meaning for me.  Look for this house, “The Manse”, on Amazon next time you’re browsing around.

To the fantastic people who let me wander around taking pictures long after the tour was over …Thanks so much.  Your house and I both wish there were more people like you!

Oh and Warner?  You’ll find that I may or may not be lacking in the punctuation department and the use of correct English…I know you won’t hold it against me.  However, if you see facts that need correcting you just knock yourself out. 

21 thoughts on “This Montana Mansion

  1. Unbelievable.
    This is so beautiful. How wonderful that it has been so lovingly restored. I can imagine that you were teary-eyed before the end of your tour.
    I’ll be sure to look for that book.
    Thanks for sharing this special house with us!


  2. You have done it again, my dear – a wonderful photo essay sharing something you find tear worthy. You did a very nice job displaying the beauty of the Manse and the graciousness of the hosts. Fun people aren’t they?


  3. This was an amazing post!! I loved it! Boy if those walls could talk… I love places like this! So much history. So glad the house has people that love it living in it now. Amazing!


  4. Thank you for taking the time to edit the photo’s, adding the comments, and posting. You have a keen eye and a wonderful way of expressing with words what you see. Thank you for adding to my day, always look forward to your post. thanks Mac P.S. what’s going on with Jake’s truck?


    1. Mac! So glad to hear from you!! Thank you for your very kind words.
      Jake’s truck is running better than an old truck has a right to and he’s about saved up enough $$ for new tires.
      I was thinkin’ of you that day we picked it up in Colorado.
      Miss ya man! :)


  5. What a beautiful house and the fact that you got to go thru it is amazing. Excellent write up as usual. I quess we kind of forget in other states that they might not have to keep the older houses in their true state. It takes forever to get them o.k. and everything needs to stay in it’s orginial color and etc. in Minn. Thanks for the great tour.


  6. My mom and dad sent me your blog so that I could see the pics you took of their house. You did an amazing job and really captured its magic! It was a real treat because I have not been able to see it since they have done so much more work!


  7. First, I wanted to say how much I enjoyed meeting you Dee. Second, your pics of the Manse are amazing and Kathy and I thank you. It is very gratifying to know that the time, effort and expense we’ve put into the reno/resto are appreciated. Finally, for those of your readers who are interested, the first novel in The Anonymous Man mystery series, Kismet, is in limited release and can be ordered by contacting me at The second novel, The Manse, is being published by an independent press and will be out in the next couple of months, I will let you and your readers know about its release date. Hope to see you the next time you’re visiting here in DL. Warner


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