Nearly 20 years ago, Bill Goodman fell in love with an old, dilapidated building. Today his passion project has revitalized one of the oldest and most prominent landmarks in the Flathead Valley, the KM Building
Story by Dillon Tabish | Photography by Greg Lindstrom
From inside the grand hallways of the KM Building, onlookers can glimpse into the past and future of Kalispell.
Black-and-white photos adorn the high walls, showing the dusty streets and wooden sidewalks of an emergent downtown in the early 1900s. The original birch floors are intact, as is the classic brick infrastructure.
Inside these walls lies history. A few years ago, workers discovered an American flag made of wool with 48 stars. The oldest active furnace in Montana bellows steam throughout the two-story building. Other quirky relics are stashed in the various nooks and crannies, harkening to a different era of architecture and lifestyles.
Don’t be mistaken, though — this giant artifact is far from gathering dust.
Throughout the 80,000-square-foot labyrinth, more than 25 businesses and offices are bustling with activity, from dentists to financial advisors. The same rooms that once housed the original offices and courtroom for the nascent Flathead County and the first Kalispell City Hall are now home to massage therapists and more. The Split Rock Café serves breakfast and lunch in the same space as the building’s original namesake, the Kalispell Mercantile, where the town’s first residents gathered their vital supplies, from wagons to appliances and groceries.
Yet barely 20 years ago, this centerpiece of Kalispell was very different, dim and dusty, a relatively forgotten piece of history.
Bill Goodman remembers.
When he moved to Montana in 1972, he developed a well-known acumen in the real estate business. Then he moved to Kalispell 10 years later and found love, twice over.
First, it was a beautiful young woman named Jana. A pack of musicians, including Marshall Noice and other downtown artists, formed a blues band named Tut and the Uncommons and played regularly at the Kalispell Bar on Main Street. Bill and Jana met for a dance and it grew into a regular gathering. Then it grew into love and marriage.
Second, it was a massive building in downtown, filling an entire city block along First Avenue East. At the time, only two tenants occupied the space. Spiderwebs overran the hallways and expanses. A dim coat of cement and silica — a peculiar style popularized in the 70s — masked the brick exterior.
The owners of the KM Building wanted to sell it and brought in Goodman as the prospective real estate agent. As he toured the corridors, Goodman detected that something special was hidden and overlooked.
As a kid growing up in Memphis, the son of a community leader who championed new life for old buildings, Goodman had a particular taste for “historic flavor.”
“I grew up with that in my blood,” he says. “I fell in love with this building.”
In 1997, with Jana’s blessing, Goodman purchased the KM Building and embarked on a labor of love that he never could have predicted. It is only now reaching its conclusion, and what a conclusion it is.
“It was a dying building back then,” he says.
The KM Building, one of the oldest and most prominent existing landmarks in the Flathead Valley, is now a vibrant focal point in downtown Kalispell. Originally built from 1892 through 1903, the structure is a source of commerce and history to the greater community.
The careful restoration of the KM Building into a viable space for business today, while preserving its architectural integrity, speaks to the value of the building as more than an historic artifact, Katharine Thompson, community development manager with the city of Kalispell, said. “It is a rich part of the fabric of Kalispell’s community.”
“The KM building was constructed in the early 1890s, around the same time as the Central School — now The Museum at Central School — and Carnegie Library — now the Hockaday. Together, these three structures form a core that anchors the historic downtown Kalispell district,” Gil Jordan, executive director of the Northwest Montana Historical Society, says.
Goodman completely renovated the KM Building over the last two decades, gutting many of the upstairs rooms that had become empty storage space over the last century. Fiber optic cables were spread throughout, as well as new sprinkler systems. New walls were constructed and other older ones were torn down, creating a spacious atmosphere that is both comfy and accommodating.
Before Split Rock Café, the Goodmans opened and operated Red’s Wines and Blues, a bar and restaurant, and Red’s Roost, a sports bar. That endeavor proved too successful as it overwhelmed the Goodmans and the building, and they eventually shut it down, opening the doors for the breakfast and lunch café.
As their latest and last project, the Goodmans redeveloped the upstairs loft apartment, a 2,500-square-foot living space with a rooftop patio overlooking downtown.
“I don’t have to leave here for anything. It’s all here,” Bill says.
Except the Goodmans are leaving.
After all this time and effort, Bill is ready for his next adventure. At 69, he is ready to move on from his passion project. He has listed the KM Building with two local realtors, David Stone with PureWest Real Estate and Wendy Brown with Chuck Olson Real Estate. Goodman listed the property for $3.48 million.
“I’m hoping that the new owner is somebody who appreciates what they’re getting, appreciates the place in history that the building has and the community, and the quality that I’ve tried to put into it,” Goodman says.
After years of “24/7” hard work, Bill and Jana are ready to spend more time relaxing in the Flathead Valley, a place where they plan on spending the rest of their days together. After 26 years of marriage, they’re ready to get back to dancing.
“Anyone can build new,” he says. “It’s hard to build old.”
“It’s been exciting to see his vision unfold. It unfolded the way he saw it. That rarely happens,” Jana says.
“This building has been as exciting as my husband.”