MISSOULA It sits on six city lots with 18 bedrooms, seven fireplaces, and more than a century of memories that echo through the hallways.
The John R. Toole House -- or the Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority -- is on the market in Missoula’s historic University District after the sorority suspended operations at the University of Montana last spring. Although their beloved house is for sale, the sellers hope the future of the mansion remains intact.
Realtors from around Missoula recently had the chance to get a close look at the mammoth property in the heart of the University District that sits on more than 33,000 square feet of property.
You may wonder what it must have been like for the John R. Toole family to call it home back in the early 1900s. But for most of its existence, it has been home to the Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority. The house cost $15,000 to build way back when and now it’s on the market for $2.75 million.
“We just hope whoever comes in to buy our home really takes care of it and loves it. Unfortunately, just how things have gone over the last several decades, the house hasn’t been maintained the way we all wish it was. So regardless of if someone was to turn this into an Airbnb, condos — whatever they were to do — they keep the actual structure of the home.” - Kappa Kappa Gamma House Board President Molly Johnson
The Kappas may no longer live in the house, but their spirit does. The faces of the young college women who lived in UM’s first sorority for almost 90 years tell the story of sisterhood, philanthropy, parties, and study halls.
Reflections of the past are displayed in photos that fill a room, or in its famous mirror — a centerpiece of the grand living room. It’s a piece of the home that’s been able to withstand the march of time.
“The history of Missoula. You know the Toole family is obviously a very historic name in Missoula, it’s on the National Historic Registry,” noted Rosemary Harrison of Windermere Real Estate who lived in the house as a Kappa. “I think people are very intrigued by the grandeur of this house,” Harrison continued. “People are really concerned that it might become a high rise or something and that’s not the desire of the neighborhood”.
The old home is going to need a lot of love to put it into tip-top shape and the sellers are hoping that whoever buys it will maintain the integrity of the building itself to preserve the history that’s inside.
Harrison says the home is being sold “as is.” The third floor had a major water leak a few years ago and there’s asbestos to deal with as well. But there’s value in the details, from the imported tile on each of the seven fireplaces, to the original floors and windows to the crown molding, the stained glass, and the staircase.
“The sellers are really wanting it to be maintained as much as it can be,” Harrison said. “They’re very concerned about anyone coming in a ripping it down and building six houses on it.”
It would be a shame to tear down something so precious; besides, you don’t want to disturb the ghosts — which, by all unverified accounts, are nice. The owners hope the grand old house will continue to stand proudly at 1005 Gerald Avenue well into the future, creating new memories -- as it has for 120 years.
A lot of love needs definitely to go into this home. But when you look at the grand scheme of things, this house has been here since 1902 or 1903,” Johnson said. It’s kind of funny, anytime someone approaches you and they find out you’re a Kappa they say ‘oh my gosh, you live in that beautiful mansion at 1005 Gerald.’ It’s just something that’s been very special to all of us."
The home was designed by architect J.F. Everett of Link and Carter, the same group that designed the state Capitol of Montana. A major addition was added to the house in 1969. The original living areas on the main floor remain intact as do some other sections of the house.
The mirror came from the Lord Baltimore estate in England. The Kappas bought it in 1937 for $50 and it cost $100 to ship. It’s so heavy, they’ve wallpapered around it in the past instead of moving it. It measures four feet-by-ten feet.