A little history about
a little bitty building

Picture of the chamber building when it was first built and placed where Kurt's Polaris building is now.

Last moving day for the little log building that has finally found a permanent home.

 


Seeley Lake Area Chamber of Commerce
Tourist Information Building
Gets New, Permanent Home, Maybe!


October 5, 2000
Seeley Swan Pathfinder
Seeley Lake, Montana


By Donna Love
For the Pathfinder

On Sunday, September 17, the Seeley Lake Area Chamber of Commerce Tourist Information Building got a new home. The new permanent site is in the parking lot of the newly constructed Bison and Bear Trading Center complex just south of the Seeley Lake Post Office on the east side of Highway 83. John Kimble, Bison and Bear Trading Center complex owner, offered a place for it at the mall and provided landscaping and a permanent foundation for the little cabin structure to sit on.

This is the fourth time in its short history that the building has moved. It had its start where Kurt's Polaris now stands. Jeff Macon, the first President of the Seeley-Condon Chamber of Commerce, now of Missoula, started the Chamber in his Seeley-Swan Real Estate office around 1981. In its beginnings the Chamber included both Seeley Lake and Condon communities. With time, and the growth in community businesses, they split and Seeley Lake's Chamber of Commerce became the Seeley Lake Area Chamber of Commerce.

Pat Gossard, the first secretary of the Chamber remembers being hired to work half days, five days a week for one hundred dollars a month to help handle the Chamber's business. She said that the only asset the Chamber had at that time was a manual Yamaha portable typewriter that someone loaned to them.

The primary purpose of the Chamber was to let the world know that Seeley Lake and Condon existed. They held a fishing contest, hosted a Loggers Day and encouraged bike-touring trips through the area. A directory of businesses was established and the first Seeley-Condon Visitor Information Brochure was produced when Addrien Marx was president. The Chamber also developed a Community Service Profile, assembled by Forest Service employee, Ron Cox, in 1982.

Gossard has a copy of the original profile. It states that there were several businesses in town, with three of them in manufacturing including the mill, and two log-home builders. Seeley Lake and Condon at the time had three thousand and two residents with three hundred and seventy-six housing units, thirty-nine of which lacked indoor plumbing. The average rent was one hundred and sixteen dollars. The report was so detailed it even listed marital status of the adult residents. Ninety-nine were single.

With that in hand, Macon was able to establish the need for a bank in Seeley Lake and was able to have Condon listed on the state highway map. To do this he had to have proof that Condon had a service station, motel and post office.

In 1985 it was decided to build a tourist information building that would be more visible to the public. That was the birth of the little log cabin Chamber of Commerce building. It was built near the old roller skating rink's cement slab foundation. Rustics of Montana donated the logs. Matthew Brothers Construction of Condon set the logs and Larry Marx donated the roof, windows and door. In the summer of l996 the little cabin was open for business where Kurt's Polaris now stands.

At this spot the tiny building became the home of the Seeley-Swan Pathfinder in 1990 when Gary and Millie Noland bought the paper. "It was the world's smallest office," Noland said. People joked that if you went into the Pathfinder and changed your mind, you had to go outside to do it.

The Pathfinder used the little building for the cost of utilities with the understanding that when Sandy Sommerdyke, secretary for the Pathfinder was there, she would answer the phone for Chamber business and handle tourist information. "It would be especially crazy in there on Fridays," she said, when tourists would come into town for the weekend. One of the funniest requests she had was someone asking where the movie-theater was.

Sommerdyke worked three days a week out of the little office. It was difficult to work there. It had a baseboard electric heater, but in the winter that wasn't even enough to keep it warm. The first winter she was there, she turned the heat off when she left. One day she returned and it was so cold that the computer wouldn't turn on. Noland's had her leave the heat on low from then on and provided an extra space heater for her to use when she was there. "But," Summerdyke said, "by far the most difficult thing about working in the little cramped building was going elsewhere to use the restroom."

When Kurt's Polaris was built in 1993 the little building was moved a bit further to the south to the corner of B Street and Highway Eighty-three. The Seeley-Swan Pathfinder remained in the building until 1996 when they moved to office space in Clearwater Reality (and have since moved to the Lazy Pine Mall.)

Then, due to changes in parking lot needs at Kurt's, the little Chamber of Commerce building was moved again in the fall of 1996 to a location just south of Lindey's Steak House, on Mike Lindemer's property. Mike generously offered a place for it near his restaurant's parking lot.

It was at this location until Sunday, September 17, of this year when it was moved, hopefully, for the final time to the Bison and Bear Trading Center.

Volunteers with the Seeley Lake Area Chamber of Commerce assisted in the recent move. Steve and Roger Johnson of Pyramid Lumber Company used forklifts from the mill to load and unload the structure. Ed Bezanson, Board Member and Past President of the Chamber, from Double Arrow Golf Resort, drove the lowboy truck donated by Dick Lewis of Rent-All in Seeley Lake to haul the cabin to its new location. Roger Johnson said, "This is the second or third time I've moved that thing!"

At its new home the facility will be used in the same manner as before. It will serve as the Seeley Lake Area Tourist Information Center seven days a week between Memorial Day and Labor Day Weekends and as the Area Chamber of Commerce business center. This is made possible through a staffing grant from Glacier Country Tourism Commission, which promotes Tourism Development in small communities.

Gary Miller, President of 1st Valley Bank, and Past-President and Treasurer of the Chamber also helped with the move. He feels the new home will give the Chamber of Commerce more exposure. "It will be more centrally located," Miller said.

Nancy Miller, Executive Director of the Chamber of Commerce, feels that the new location will be much easier for tourists to access. "But the new location isn't just for travelers," Miller said. "It is also important to local people and businesses, too." She sees the Chamber as an asset to the community for its promotion of Seeley Lake area and feels that the Chamber serves an important role in the growth of the area. Miller expressed that the new visible place is a nice addition to both the community and the Chamber. "It's so welcoming and friendly here," Miller said, "It's the perfect place."

So the cabin may finally have a permanent home. The Chamber itself plans to move its operations to the Seeley Lake Historical Museum and Visitor Center south of town by the golf course when that project is completed so the future use of the building is unknown, but it is probably, finally, home.

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