By Robert Lucke
Here is how you can stump someone when playing Havre Trivia. Just ask them to name one of the two houses in Havre's Historic Residential District that have roofs that resemble thatching.
Chances are they won't get one at least. That one is the Witt Realty Office at 202 Third St. If you ask an old, old old-timer what the name of that house is, he will tell you it is the Smith House. Ask just an old-timer, you will be told it is the Anderson House.
Alexander Smith built the house in 1902. He worked as a conductor on the Great Northern Railway and later became Havre's first city parks superintendent. Later, for decades, Len and Helen Anderson lived in the house. They ran Anderson's Grocery on Third Avenue.
The official style is called Colonial Revival and it is probably the most impressive example in Havre of an old house having alternative uses. That is thanks to the house's present owner, Keith Doll. He bought the house for his real estate office in 1993 and has been lovingly restoring it ever since.
One of the most amazing things about the house is the amount of large windows and light that flows through the main floor rooms. The main floor contains a large front porch, a tiny vestibule, a large living room, dining room, kitchen, and attached garage. The garage and the sun porch above it were added later.
The second floor contains a bathroom and three large bedrooms in addition to the south- and east-facing sun porch. Most interesting of all is the completely finished third-floor room. It is too small for a ballroom but too big for a bedroom. Could it have been a playroom, or a game room? Its original use remains a mystery.
No mystery is how much its owner loves the house and has filled it with treasures from the past.
"I don't collect antiques really," Doll said. "I collect old stuff. Most has been given to me and I didn't pay much for most of it."
Doll's love for the house starts early in the morning each day.
"I just love this house," he said. "My wife is so ticked because I spend all of my time here. At 6:15 a.m. I head for the office to water or make coffee or something. There are days that I am doing so much that I never even sit at my desk."
The house does have some quirks that Doll cannot figure out.
"One of them is that the stair treads are all oak until you go around the corner where they can't be seen from downstairs and then they turn into pine," he said. "So you would think that upstairs they were trying to save money when they built the house. And yet the light fixtures up there are all silver. That is puzzling."
Something Doll loves about old houses in general is that there is always so much history to look up and find out about. For instance, he found out recently that Smith bought the two lots the house sits on in 1897 for the huge sum of $5.
Doll recommends that lots of businesses find old houses, preserve them and turn them into an alternative use rather than allowing them to be lost to the wrecking ball.
"You know, these old houses have lots more character," Doll said. "I am toying with the idea of moving upstairs when the kids are gone and working out of the main level. I used to be in construction many years ago and my heart has always been in the old houses, even when I built new houses."
Drive by 202 Third St. on your way to the post office. You can tell.
And, oh, that other thatched-roof house in the Historic District? It is the Casman/Black House at 503 Second Ave.
Research material for this story came from "Havre's Historic Homes" by Jon Axline.