Eagles Rest harkens back to grand 19th century Adirondack camps while celebrating its own contemporary Montana flourishes

Story by Colton Martini | Photography by Gibeon Photography

The Great Camp style was a 19th century architectural movement based on historic and sprawling family retreats originating from tent camps. These incredible compounds would eventually be made of multiple cabins and lodges and traditionally found on lakeshores in the Adirondack Mountains. The camps were built as summer homes, where the owners could relax, host or attend parties, and ultimately enjoy the wilderness.

William West Durant is credited for developing the earliest Great Camps in the 1800s. However, as the West began to open up, and Montana eventually became a state in 1889, prominent Montana residents began seeking a place to build their own unique escape from their busy lives. In search of inspiration, they looked east and pulled influence from the Great Camps of the Adirondacks.

In the 1930s, Jack Ryan of Montana Power Company commissioned a camp to be built on Swan Lake, which would eventually become Six Mile Estate. True to form, a thoughtful grouping of cabins centered around a main lodge was constructed along the lakeshore on nearly 6,000 acres purchased by the Ryan family. All the cabins were lined in pine walls and peppered with the smell of wood smoke from the stone fireplaces, the only source of heat. Entertaining was made easy in the lodge, which was equipped with a commercial-style kitchen and moody pine-paneled bar, adjacent to a grand dining hall and stunning great room. It was perfect for staying indoors on chilly summer evenings or rainy days.

As the build sites were typically in remote areas, the Great Camp Style is also an example of vernacular architecture. This meant that indigenous stones, locally fallen trees and logs were paired with shingled overhanging roofs and covered porches or patios.

Sunrise Builders, known for its ability to carefully listen to clients while creating finely crafted and meticulously designed legacy properties, was commissioned to build a modern Great Camp. Working closely with the architects and designers, Sunrise was able to successfully guide the team to assess and match the dreams of their clients, referred to simply as Eagles Rest.

Eagles Rest is nestled on the shore of Flathead Lake, and the home embodies the Great Camps of the past at every turn. Built as a full-time residence for the owners, the home consists of multiple structures. Positioned around a main “lodge,” the owners and their guests have to step outside to move between buildings, rain or shine, snow or sleet. The sensory experience is one of the key details making the residence unique.

Endless cords of wood were cut from the surrounding grounds. Those logs create a living-art installation along the exterior walls of the structure. In counterbalance, and used over and over again in the Great Camp Style, are the ample vistas, enjoyed from the long covered porches. If the outdoors are too rustic for guests, walls of glass offer enjoyment of the elements from the comfort of the sofa. An intentionally rusted patina steel roof adds a timeworn look.

Eagles Rest was furnished with references to the early 1900s, in the spirit of the Six Mile Estate on Swan Lake. In fact, the entire project was rooted in the owner’s personal passion to restore an original 1940s cabin.

Spaces with an intimate feel are the cornerstone of the Great Camps. Large-scale stone fireplaces are contrasted with reclaimed wood accents to add a vintage quality, while thoughtful pops of color and touches of contemporary furniture exemplify the perfect blend of history and the present. Classic grid-style windows bring the outdoors into the forefront by framing the lake views. Adirondack chairs are sprinkled around the property, providing that finishing touch of the Great Camp style and sprinkling thoughtful flecks of color in all the right places.

Throughout the country, a movement has sprung up to preserve the magnificent Great Camps of the past. Six Mile Estate on Swan Lake was thoughtfully preserved years ago and still offers its owners a place to build memories and enjoy family and guests. Eagles Rest is a tribute to that tradition, representing so much more than just a home. It’s an embodiment of experiences, preservation and the idea that if you dream it, you can do it, much like the Great Camps of yesteryear.

Colton Martini studied architecture at Montana State University. He is a practicing interior designer in Whitefish and Missoula and can be reached at (406) 480-2375, coltmartini@mac.com and www.ColtonMartini.com.