About to spend a couple of weeks in lodges deep inside some of the nation’s best national parks, I made a two-day stop in Missoula, Montana, and chose a very un-lodge-like accommodation.
Less than two miles from downtown Missoula, with its lively farmers market, extensive bike paths along the Clark Fork River, and the idyllic campus of the University of Montana, the Gibson Mansion Bed & Breakfast beckoned me from the second I saw it.
Originally built as a private home for an immigrant Swedish pharmacist in 1903, over the course of its history the mansion became a sorority house, an apartment building, and a fraternity house. After too many keggers, it was a wreck and was slated for demolition in 1979. Saved by a private owner who moved it to its current location (a feat in and of itself, as the wide load slowly moved along the streets of Missoula), the mansion was purchased in 2001 by current innkeepers Tom and Nancy, who lovingly and meticulously converted it into the grand B&B it is today.
In the winter, you’ll want to snuggle up to the fireplace in the parlor or read the local Missoulian in the library. During fine weather, you’ll be tempted to idle in the finely manicured garden, or lull yourself into a delightful state of drowsiness on the swing seat on the curved porch. In any season, you’ll love the gleaming white Corinthian columns, the gable roof, the leaded stained glass windows, the oak staircase, and the exceedingly comfortable rooms.
The grace of the Gibson Mansion was perfectly paired by Tom and Nancy’s friendliness and knowledge of the area. They were a delight to talk to in the evening after a full day of exploring this very livable city, or over their delectable breakfasts the next morning — an orange omelet soufflé with chicken sausage and hot chocolate one morning, seared peach and huckleberry pancakes with peppered bacon the next.
Hands down, this is the nicest, warmest, most elegant place to stay in Montana’s second-largest city. So seductive was it that I queried Tom and Nancy about possible employment there. Alas, to my chagrin, they were not hiring.