Historic Havre homes
By Robert Lucke
"I always thought the boys liked me, but it wasn't until later that I found out that they were coming to the house to see if they could find the secret tunnel," Mary Antunes once said when discussing the Young-Almas house.
Certainly one of the most important of the historic Havre homes, the Spanish-style house built at 419 Fourth Ave. has been intriguing since its birth in 1914.
It was built by Havre vice king C.W. Young, although he only lived in it until 1919 when he sold it to the Dr. Joseph Almas family. Since the Almas family sold the house in the 1970s, it has been a funeral home, law office and family home.
For all of its varied uses, the flair, character and charm of Young's original home is still very much in evidence.
Walls still contain hand-painted borders by Thorweed Ronne, and rich mahogany paneling still accents most principle rooms.
When constructed, the house was built as a huge U around a courtyard, which contained iron gates leading to the back yard and carriage house. That courtyard has since been made into part of the interior of the house. Other than that, most rooms are as they were originally in the house. They include a tower flower room and a large ballroom in the basement.
Most interesting about the house were the rumors of a secret tunnel and room in the house used during bootlegging days. In the words of Almas' now-deceased daughter, Mary Antunes, in September 1976, stories of the secret room led to her being the most popular girl at Havre High School.
These days, Ted and Monie Thompson use the house as their family home.
"We have done some renovating in the house, but we have tried to keep it as much like the original as possible," Ted Thompson said. "It was such a dark house. We replaced the grass cloth to lighten it up. You know it was a man's house. All very dark."
The house, which is on the National Register for Historic Places, is as sound as the day it was built.
"You know the person who should get the credit for this house is the builder, Chris Fuglevand. To this day, walk around, there is not a creak anywhere," Thompson added.
There are a few quirks though. The living room fireplace and bookcases are just slightly off-center for some reason. Thompson thinks it is that way because it was all handmade. And then there is the light switch in the den closet that turns on the lights in the basement ballroom.
Thompson described his favorite things about the house.
"If I had to define living here in a word, it would be comfortable.' It is really like the warm feeling when your mother is hugging you. You just sit in here and feel like you are at home," Thompson said. "The house has been a good friend to me. I think the house took around 18 months to build. As nearly as I can see, Young and his wife moved in here in August of 1914."
Thompson is ever aware of the history surrounding the house.
"We all live with history so to speak and this house is really something to see," he said.
About that tunnel. Seems that there was a tunnel and secret room, all right. And not just in this Young house. Another residence of C.W. Young in Havre's east end did come complete with a secret room in the basement and an underground tunnel leading out to the garage. That one had a basement ballroom as well.
Material from this story came from "Historic Homes of North Central Montana" by Robert Lucke and "Havre's Historic Homes" by Jon Axline.