By Robert Lucke
Here is a wake-up call for many Havre residents over 50 years of age. The Dr. William and Gail Rader house at 51 Saddle Butte Drive is considered an old house by many of the under-35 population.
Not only that, but having been built in 1954, it only has three more years to go before it could be considered a historic house by many standards.
The house was built for Dr. and Mrs. Albert Axley by a firm of Great Falls architects.
A word about the style of the 2,400-square-foot home. It was a style developed in California in the 1930s but did not become popular across the country until after World War II. Called ranch or rambler, those usually one-level houses sprawl over much area and feature large rooms, many windows and often were placed in areas that have great views.
The Rader house is no exception. Situated almost on the top of Saddle Butte Drive, it has an outstanding view to the east and south. And the living room with its huge vaulted ceiling and grand window wall was built to take full advantage of that view.
"In fact this room was what caused us to buy the house," said Gail Rader. "That and the view out of this room."
Only the second owner of the house, the Raders bought it in 1969.
"It wasn't really even finished when we bought it," Bill Rader said. "Even the driveway wasn't poured."
"It was like so many of these houses. I think it had become a money pit," added Gail Rader. "They had wanted cedar on the roof but couldn't afford it, and even the patios were not finished."
Even though little of the structure has changed through the years in a big way, lots of little things have occurred.
"The Axleys had all those girls and we just had two boys so we could make different uses of the bedrooms," Gail Rader said.
The house is huge: 55 windows just on the main floor, five bedrooms, a couple of bathrooms, an enormous kitchen, front vestibule and that grand huge living-dining room combination with fireplace and vaulted ceiling. Add to that a large south-facing patio.
The basement has another huge room with fireplace, its own patio and hot tub along with various work rooms.
There is a double garage attached to the north side of the house.
One of the most interesting aspects of the house is the way the Raders have worked on each of the rooms until each is just the way they want it to look. Plenty of time and thought went into all that.
Take the basement recreation room.
"The basement wasn't finished and so I decorated the large room to look like a waiting room for a whore house," Bill Rader said. "I got a pool table out of the Elks Bar in Chinook and at the time I was into stained glass so I did a lot of that for that room. And I was into woodworking so I built a wet bar and filled the room with a bunch of antiques."
There are very innovative touches throughout the house. For instance part of the upper south patio is made from marble window ledges that were a part of the old Sacred Heart Hospital.
It is apparent that the love affair between the Raders and the house continues year after year.
"It is a fabulous house," Gail Rader said. "So comfortable and it fills our needs. It is an incredible house to entertain in. We could have a dinner party upstairs here and a whole Boy Scout troop downstairs all at the same time. It has wonderful spaces. We have taken much of those spaces and filled them up with our own things. In fact we do not encourage overnight guests unless they are children. There is not room for them."
"And this is a nice town to live in," Bill Rader added. "Why people want to go to Mesa and places like that I don't understand. This is a good place to live."
Like most houses, this one has its quirks and quarks.
"There is a heavy cast-iron heating duct that runs the full length of the kitchen at the ceiling level," Bill Rader said. "I cannot imagine why they did that. And there is no basement under the bedrooms and not a lot of work space in the house."
"Maybe Dr. Axley was outvoted by all the ladies in his house," Gail Rader said, laughing.