Wilson's Cafe

A stuccoed diamond pattern tops this circa 1891 building, masking a classic, wooden false front. The false front disguised a gable roof, making the frontier building appear more sophisticated than it actually was. Later rear additions expanded retail space, but owners never replaced the core structure. A grocery between 1894 and 1918, it housed Chinese immigrant Chin Sing’s Glacier Park Restaurant from 1918 to 1924. Most Chinese immigrants living in Flathead County in 1920 originally worked for the Great Northern Railway; some, like Sing, later owned independent businesses. Alex Wilson opened Wilson’s Café here in 1926. Trained as a mess sergeant during World War I, Wilson boasted of once cooking for General Pershing. In 1931, short-lived owners John and Gladys Morris differentiated themselves from their Chinese competitors by advertising that Wilson’s catered “to the white trade” and used “white help only.” Ethel Withee, who acquired the restaurant by 1933 and the building in 1937, took a different promotional tack. She commissioned architect Fred Brinkman to design the modern façade and built her business’s reputation on excellent service, home cooking, and “exceedingly reasonable” prices. 

Images

Wilson's Cafe, street view

Wilson's Cafe, street view

photo adhered to National Register form (verso unavailable) b&w print | Source: Official records of the Montana State Historic Preservation Office, Helena, Montana | Creator: Unidentified photographer View File Details Page

Wilson's Cafe, rear view

Wilson's Cafe, rear view

photo adhered to National Register form (verso unavailable) b&w print | Source: Official records of the Montana State Historic Preservation Office, Helena, Montana | Creator: Unidentified photographer View File Details Page

Street Address:

123 South Main Street, Kalispell, Montana [map]

Cite this Page:

The Montana National Register Sign Program, “Wilson's Cafe,” Explore Big – Montana's Historic Places, accessed March 30, 2017, http://explorebig.org/items/show/475.

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