Dowling family member reflects on historic funeral home property

Ravalli County commissioners are seriously interested in buying the Dowling Funeral Home in Hamilton for future expansion. Tim Dowling talked to NBC Montana about the property's long history and recounted five generations of family stories dating back more than 100 years.

As NBC Montana told you this week, after close to 100 years, Hamilton's Dowling Funeral Home and part of the property that surrounds it could see a change in ownership.

Ravalli County commissioners are seriously considering buying the property for future expansion.

The Dowling family hasn't seen the offer and aren't commenting on the possible sale at this time.

But one of the family owners, Tim Dowling, showed us the house and grounds that he and his family have called home for five generations.

Tim was born and raised on the extraordinary tree-studded lot that stands near downtown Hamilton.

The family purchased the property from Copper King Marcus Daly's estate in 1920.

For more than 90 years Tim's dad and grandfather ran the Dowling Funeral Home.

"We've served a lot of families in this house," said Tim, "and it's served us well."

There are now six generations of John Dowlings.

Tim's grandparents lived in the funeral home on the first floor.

His parents, Jack and Peggy and Tim's two older brothers, John and Michael, lived on the second floor before Tim and his sister Kathleen came along.

"To this day," laughed Tim, "they still give me a bad time that I never got to live in the big house."

Before it was a funeral home it was Marcus Daly's Stock Farm manager's house, then the Stock Farm irrigation office.

The house is one of several structures, including the Daly Mansion, that Daly built more than 100 years ago, that showcased the new town of Hamilton.

"Like the Catholic Church," said Tim, "this was probably one of the original buildings in Hamilton."

"My mom and dad," he said, "took great pride and care of the building and property."

Tim's favorite place is the grounds and it's towering trees.

Marcus Daly planted them he said. "They're not native Montana trees. They're Norwegian Pines and these trees are over 100 years old."

They are some of, if not the tallest trees in the town of Hamilton.

Tim reflects on a number of stories passed down through the generations.

He recounted the one before he was born when the family was having dinner and heard that Pearl Harbor had been bombed.

"It was in the kitchen here," he said. "He (his dad) got up and walked downtown and enlisted. It was the only time," he said, " that he left this property."

He said his dad had "great compassion" dealing with generations of families who had lost loved ones.

"He was a huge promoter of Hamilton and the Bitterroot," he said. "Dad was always talking about preserving the property for the community."

Tim said the family will give "serious consideration" to the county's offer.

He said it's his generation's "vision to save it for the community as best they can."

"This is historical," he said. "I will leave it up to the good people of the Bitterroot to decide what they want to do with it, if and when the county decides to buy it."

Tim walked the grounds with us on this warm summer day and looked up at the trees.

"What can I say," he asked. "I was born and raised here. It's home."

But he said, in many ways the place belongs to the Bitterroot as much as it does to the Dowling family.

close video ad
Unmutetoggle ad audio on off