Tom and Nancy Malikie want you to feel at home at The Gibson Mansion, despite the obvious and enchanting Victorian style of a historic icon within our city limits. But somehow, they’ve found the perfect balance of preserving a rich history while welcoming guests of the modern world. It’s a dance, really, between old world and new.
Contrary to what many of us locals believe, this is not the original home of our famed architect A.J. Gibson – though he did design the mansion. He built this home for the Peterson family in 1903. Standing in the foyer, you’ll see the original parquet floors, quarter sawn wood trims, and leaded stained glass windows that match those of St. Francis’ downtown. Tom and Nancy have done a truly amazing and careful restoration of the home. In fact, such a stellar job that you may never guess that this home has changed hands thirteen times, was once scheduled for demolition, was moved from its original location where Hellgate High’s gym now sits and sat vacant and crumbling for three years. You wouldn’t guess that between 1903 and now, the Peterson’s high-end home was turned into a Sorority house, a 5-unit apartment complex and then a Fraternity house where let’s face it, it was not prized.
The house now pays tribute to its original grandeur, and it does offer guests an experience in the past, but the Malikie’s optimal goal is to make their guests feel at home.
According to Nancy, “the worst thing for their guests is to feel like they’re staying in grandma’s house or a museum”.
They swapped out the antique gooseneck sofas for smoking-room style leather in the sitting room when they realized their guests were not only physically larger than their 1900 counterparts, but they were also afraid of damaging the furniture. While they preserved the library area, they removed the lace and doilies that their visitors found too stuffy. And you won’t find a sign-in desk here. Instead, newcomers walk through the formal dining room to the kitchen where they are encouraged to use the refrigerator, microwave, and help themselves to local beer, soda and snacks anytime they wish.
Tom tells of how innovative Mr. Peterson was when he built the home. Even though electricity hadn’t made its way south of the Higgins Street bridge at the time, he had the house wired for the day that it would. Today, Tom has painstakingly equipped each room with reproductions of old-fashioned push-button style light switches. On the other hand, he’s also preparing each guest room for soon-to-come tablets and apps that will allow guests to take full advantage of amenities, such as scheduling room delivery of coffee and his famous scones or Cedar Creek Spa provided in-room massages.
The dance continues outside on the grounds.
According to the Malikies, “We are not the canned or cookie-cutter venue. We pride ourselves in customizing events, making each one unique and special for our clients.” Just ask their bride and lumberjack groom who brought in their own tree to cut down during the reception. Or the ladies of ALPHA CHI OMEGA who came back to reminisce about misunderstanding when the Fire Marshal told them to keep that fire escape door open at all times. One poor thing woke up to snow on her bed many a morning!
Their guests come to the Gibson Mansion to plan a future that will someday be their history, or they come to explore the past while making their own memories–none of which would be possible without modern day comforts such as farm-to-table menus and multi-plug outlets for your devices.
As for Tom and Nancy, they’re looking forward to 2029 when this home will be eligible for the National Registry. It already meets the requirements, other than the fact that it was moved from its original location. Fifty years at 823 39th Street will fulfill that legacy.
Ultimately, to be at home in the Gibson Mansion is to be at home in time. It truly does all that Tom and Nancy hope: “To give back to Missoula the history of the house while also using it for its best use.”