The Taj Garage

Posted on 07 March 2016

taj garage

By David Reese, Montana's Finest Homes


Hanover, Montana, no longer exists. 
    Only a rutted field remains where the downtown streets used to be. Rows of trees form an outline of where the town once was. Hanover, located about six miles northwest of Lewistown, Montana, was the site of the Ideal Cement Company, which has long since closed down. But the memories and memorabilia remain, in a Flathead Lake beach house owned by Kalispell interior designer Carol Nelson. Nelson grew up on a ranch at the foothills of the mountain where a long tramway hauled the gypsum down from long mine shafts. 
    The Nelsons' home on Hughes Bay on Flathead Lake sits on a narrow lot, with a steep drop from the driveway to the home; when they were building the garage, they decided to add two floors underneath the structure - this would become a tall, glass-paneled structure known as the "Taj Garage." Nelson decided to take some of the artifacts from the Hanover gypsum mine and incorporate them into a garage beyond compare. Throughout the home, remnants of the mine can be found; handrailings are made from the thick tramway cables that Nelson found lying on the ground, their rusted patina a perfect compliment to the weathered staircase that are made out of beams from the mine shafts. Building the house on a steep required some creative engineering, so the team at Denman Construction Company used tall, steel beams to support the three-story structure.    
However, you don't see any of the steel; the steel beams that support the house are covered with the grayed, weathered beams of the tramway. 
    Even the old, rusted bolts found in the timbers were kept; although they're not functional in any way, Denman's crew found a way to cut them and glue them onto the beams throughout the house. Old wood with irregular ends was used to create a trellis in the entryway with feature lighting incorporated into it. When old wood was not available, new wood was stained and given a patina to duplicate the old aged look. A balcony landing features iron structural pieces from the tram towers, surrounded by the cable from the tram as railing All of the tramway towers at the gypsum plant were notched with numbers, and one of the tramway towers that were hauled down from the mine is notched "XIIIN" signifying Tower 13 North. 
    These small reminders you can find over doorways throughout Nelson's house. "They're just kind of surprises that you see every so often in the home," she says. "Everyplace you look you say 'oh that's kind of cool.'" The house has an eclectic look, with bright furniture that reflects Nelson's own tastes as a designer. The paneled cabinets were aged and painted by the staff at Glacier Woodworking, and the floor has radiant heating. Faux paint on the walls has a vertical texture effect with a warm gold undercolor and a gray top layer. This relates well to the gray trim work and the grays in the aged wood. Even the bedroom closets retain a feel of the old Ideal Cement Company gypsum mine. 
    The closet doors are exterior-mount sliding systems in a barn door style. The metal was given a patina to lend it an aged look. What identifies the tall, narrow house are the windows. Flathead Lake forms an impressive view throughout the house. "It's just an amazing panorama," Nelson said. "It feels like you're outside." Nelson is not used to do doing design for herself, but this project allowed her to take her time and truly see what she wanted in this home ... which started as a garage but evolved into a guest house where she says she and her husband will one day retire. "My budget isn't always what my clients' is," she says. "My priorities have always been my clients, so I'm not used to making myself a priority. I had to really think it through and make sure we did things right. "It was just a lot of fun." 

RESOURCES Tile and granite: Whistler Tile and Stone Windows: Sierra Pacific General contractor: Denman Construction Plumbing: Master Plumbing

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