The Strong Building, located on Washington Street in Montpelier, has definitely been a “strong” building. It has stood for nearly 100 years since Lish Strong broke ground for it on April 21, 1906. And even though the majority of it sadly collapsed on January 24, 2020, the facade still stands “strong,” and proud, albeit for a while, indicating with its beautiful red brick and brickwork circles the proud heritage that has been the Strong Building.
The Strong building was built for Lish Strong by the Tueller brothers of Paris, Ida. The footage was to be 75 feet on Main Street. The east room, which was to be a Post Office, was to be 25 feet by 84 feet and one story. The balance of the block was to be 50 feet by 100 feet and two stories high. The lower floor was to be divided into two storage rooms, and the second floor was to be fitted for a dance hall. They expected to have the Post Office room completed by July 1, 1906.
In fact, Mr. Strong received a letter from F.H. Hancock, first assistant postmaster general, on Mar. 26, 1906, informing him that the department had accepted his proposal for post office quarters. They stated the dimensions to be 22 feet six inches wide by 77 feet long, less a reservation 10 feet wide by 30 feet long, which Mr. Strong would “presumably” rent to some one for a cigar stand. It also stated that “for the room, with fireproof vault, light, heat, fixtures, etc.,” the government would pay Mr. Strong a monthly rental of $5 for a term of 10 years. They stated the building was to be occupied by the post office on July 1, 1906, or as soon thereafter as the structure was completed.
Mr. Strong was a visionary, because from that point on, the Strong building held many different businesses and was an institution in the town of Montpelier. The railroad was just beyond the downtown to the west and spurred the need for restaurants and hotels near the depot. The town became the home terminal for the Union Pacific/Oregon Short Line trains and engine crews. And the Strong building accommodated the needs of all.
The Strong building was used for everything from the Red Cross Drive Headquarters in 1918 to the Canteen Committee renting the building for train-loaded soldiers passing through. At that time, there was also the D.M. Gallafent car dealership in a portion of the building. We know that at one time, there was a unique ramp on the back of the building used to pull cars upstairs to be repaired.
In 1915, the J.A. Hoffburb Ice Cream Parlor was a big hit, and in 1917, Attorney T.L. Glenn had his offices in the building.
In 1922, the Busy Bee Restaurant moved into the building, and the Utah Fruit Company moved as well and was there for many years. In 1923, the Rainbow Cafe became the first food service business to make it’s home in the Strong Building. And in 1924, the Modern Electric Laundry became a fixture. In 1925 the Coffin Motor Company out of St. Anthony and the AC Smedley Chrysler Dealership took their places in the building.
In 1925, the Chandling Chrysler Company moved in and began selling Chrysler Fours and Sixes. In 1926, the Montpelier Motor Company moved in as well, and so did Montpelier Oldsmobile with a gas and oil dispensary.
Also in 1926, the Cokeville Automotive Company opened up in the building selling Oldsmobile Sixes.
Three years later, in March 1929, the Strong Building went up for sale. George P. Stock, the new owner, remodeled all of the west rooms converting them into a modern, up-to-date garage and show rooms and a new modern front. He also remodeled the dance hall over the garage and sales room and opened it up for a dance Sat., Jan. 4, 1930. That year the Virginia Cafe started up as well. The Strong Building became known as “one of the busiest blocks of the city.”
Things boomed for quite a few years as did the city of Montpelier. In 1959, the Strong Building was sold to Ira Peterson of Paris. Then Mr. Peterson passed away, and according to newspaper archives, there was a verified petition put forth in probate court by Charles and Ethel Jenkinson stating that they were entitled to the property and building where the Strong Building was located because, according to them, Ira Peterson had sold it to them.
From that point on, ownership of the entire building becomes hazy. There were many different business entities that remained active in the building up until the overpass went in. At that point, all of the businesses on both sides of the overpass dwindled out because of parking issues and less traffic creating less business.
However, we do know that Tapper’s Chevrolet was in the building for a very long time. As was Dante Periandozzi’s Bar and DJ’s Pizza. After that, Art Bailey came into the picture and then more recently Radek Konerick. The Strong building was even able to claim it’s position as a historical site.
There are most definitely people in the Bear Lake Valley who remember a great deal of the Strong building’s history. There are many more details about it that can be shared, such as the fact that there were apartments in the top floor at one time, there was a hair salon, a UTOCO gas station, Haddock’s IGA grocery store, and a leather craft store, just to name a few.
No matter what was in it, or who owned it, the Strong Building has remained “strong” in the hearts and minds of the townspeople. It will be remembered fondly by everyone as the vision that Lish Strong had when he broke ground for it over a 100 years ago and will always be part of the heritage of Montpelier.
We may look on it sadly now, but keep in mind what has been there before: the strength it took to build it, the strength that has been inside it, and the strength that is still holding the facade up proudly, for it is a “strong” building.