Conrad Mansion hopes annual spring fundraiser brings in thousands


KALISPELL, Mont. - Flathead history buffs are counting on a spring fundraiser to help keep Kalispell's Conrad Mansion running.

Spokane architect Kirtland Cutter designed the 1,300-square-foot mansion. Workers completed it in 1895.

The house sits on three acres and its 26 open rooms are filled with Conrad family heirlooms

To many in Flathead County, the Conrad Mansion is a treasure, but in order to keep it operating, the mansion relies on fundraising.

"Death by Chocolate is very important for us. It kind of kicks off our season. It helps give us the operating expenses to help carry us through the summer," said Conrad Mansion Executive Director Gennifer Sauter.

Death by Chocolate is a live, interactive murder mystery. The event is happening this Friday and Saturday. Proceeds from the fundraiser will go to restoration.

"We're hoping that we get enough proceeds throughout this fundraiser to fix those interior things that people don't see. Possibly getting a new boiler, possibly replacing the roof bladder on the veranda upstairs on the third floor," said Sauter.

Last Christmas, the Conrad Mansion decided to abandon its annual Christmas bazaar. It was a big money maker, but organizers figured it cost too much in wear and tear on the mansion. After all, 1,000-plus people went through the mansion every day.

They are now looking at alternate fundraising ideas.

"We are looking at replacing the holiday bazaar, but we have not come up with that golden theme yet on what we want to do," said Sauter.

With the Death by Chocolate event now being a major source for proceeds, the actors realize how important this fundraiser is for the mansion.

"Absolute no-brainer to make sure the mansion is taking care of and the perpetuity," said Lane Smith, who is a writer and actor in the Death by Chocolate event.

It's hoped this fundraiser will bring in $10,000 to $15,000 -- not enough to keep the place running all year, but it's a start.

Kalispell founder Charles Conrad, who built the mansion, also established the Conrad National Bank. His youngest daughter, Alicia, lived in the mansion until 1964. In 1974, she donated it to the city of Kalispell.