It’s not an easy job, making and keeping a 1903 Victorian-style mansion looking like 1903.
Tom and Nancy Malikie have spent the past 11-plus years since they opened the Gibson Mansion Bed and Breakfast on 39th Street warding off and/or mitigating the ravages of time, weather, frat parties, a cross-town move in 1979 and, most recently, a flying elbow.
That’s what damaged the distinctive stained-glass window above the landing on the mansion’s grand staircase a month or so ago.
The Gibson has been booked solid for weekend weddings since late May, Tom Malikie said. On this particular Saturday, the father of the groom pulled on custom-made cowboy boots for the first time.
“As he was coming down the staircase he lost his footing and put an elbow through the bottom of the window,” said Malikie. “We’re just thankful he wasn’t hurt, but he did some damage to the window.”
Enter Dennis Lippert, the stained-glass man whom the Malikies remembered from news accounts of Lippert’s work on the windows at St. Francis Xavier Church in Missoula. Lippert showed up to take a look the same afternoon they called him.
And on Tuesday, the repaired and restored traditional art nouveau, all 8 feet of it, was returned to the hole in the wall it has graced for the past 109 years – just in time for another big wedding Saturday.
“It’s kind of neat to see what the old masters have done after doing so much of it myself,” said Lippert, whose restoration work can be seen around the intermountain region, including the Montana Capitol in Helena.
Lippert, who lives nearby in south Missoula, lined up a crew to remove the window from its frame after taking out the clear, protective pane that a previous owner had installed. He took it to his shop down the street, where he removed the frame, replaced the damaged bottom sections, straightened a slight bowing in the rebar, tightened up loose joints, brushed whiting over the window to clean it and put zinc around the outside to strengthen it.
Lippert speculated it was the first time the window had such an extensive makeover.
“It had been restored at some point in time, but it hadn’t been taken out of the frame itself,” he said.
The window is one of two stained-glass pieces that line the bottom of the stairway. But there is ornate leaded and beveled glass in a lot of windows in the three-story home, all thought to be original.
“Gustave Peterson, the original owner, was a pharmacist, so we kind of joke about it,” Malikie said. “There was money in drugs 100 years ago.”
The mansion gets its current name from the Missoula architect who designed it at the turn of the 20th century, the celebrated A.J. Gibson. Peterson and his family lived in it until the mid-1920s as the Swedish immigrant and his brother Alexander built a drugstore empire in Missoula.
In 1922, they had three stores in Missoula, according to a historical note on a collection of Peterson Drug Co. prescriptions in the archives at the University of Montana’s Mansfield Library. They were Peterson Drug at 216 N. Higgins Ave., Garden City Drug at 118 N. Higgins, and Peterson Drug No. 3. Peterson Drug survived under different ownerships, including Gustave Jr., until the late 1970s. Butterfly Herbs replaced it and remains today in the same spot at 232 N. Higgins.
Gustave Peterson built his home on Gerald Avenue in Missoula’s mansion district. It wasn’t on the scale of, say, the Bonner/Spottswood Mansion across the street, but it was a remarkable piece of architecture nonetheless.
A sorority house in the 1930s and ’40s, the mansion was transformed into apartments until a fraternity took over in the early 1970s. In 1979, it was saved from demolition to make way for a new gym at Hellgate High School and moved to it its current location.
The Malikies became the 13th owners in 2001 and, according to their website, set about restoring the “sadly neglected” mansion and converting it into a bed-and-breakfast. Besides extensive renovation work inside and an “exhausting five months” that it took a professional crew to paint the outside, they transformed a weed-infested grounds into a garden oasis that attracts the wedding crowds.
“We’re trying to restore the house back to what it should be, as far as authentic, as much as possible,” Tom Malikie said. “The hard part for us is there are no pictures that we can find from 1900 that showed what it really looked like.”
Reporter Kim Briggeman can be reached at 523-5266 or at email@example.com.