By Robert Lucke
If houses had genders, the Stringfellow House at 332 Second Ave. would definitely be a lady. Perched on the only hill in downtown Havre, she looks for all the world like the empress dowager aloof from the rest of the town. In fact even her style, Queen Ann, speaks of her feminine side.
Robert and Paulette Frey have lived in the grand old house since 1976, almost as long as the Stringfellow family that built it.
H.W. Stringfellow came to Havre in 1892 and after starting several successful businesses, he opened the huge Havre Commercial Co. department store. If he hadn't had Frank Buttrey as a competitor across the street, goodness knows how far he would have gone. The Freys have a tie to Stringfellow from long ago.
"When I was small, we lived right around the corner from this house and my sister remembers Stringfellow's wife, Lou, in the house. She was a recluse and wherever she went in the house only one dim light burned," Paulette Frey recalled.
There are no stories about ghosts in the house even though it was built a long time ago, probably around 1902.
"No ghosts at all," Robert Frey said, laughing. "I was kind of disappointed. But it does creak and groan a lot."
The house is large, with a huge living room and dining room on the first floor along with a vestibule and staircase done all in oak and a large kitchen and butler's pantry.
The second floor contains four bedrooms and a bathroom. One of the unique features of the house is a kitchen call box with buzzers in the master bedroom, front door, dining room, and back door. The maid could stay in the kitchen and when someone buzzed, she would look up at the call box and see which room had buzzed her for help.
The third floor is a puzzle. Is it a large ballroom for very short people? Or is it just grand finished attic space? It is a large room with three gables and a huge closet just filled with coat hooks and rods. The steep stairs leading to the third floor would indicate that if it were a ballroom, it would not be for those who had had a libation or two.
The grounds outside of the house have the distinction of being one of the very first Havre boulevards to be planted.
After 25 years in the house, the Freys are as much in love with it as the first day they looked at it.
"There are lots and lots of good things about the house," said Robert Frey. "First of all it is paid for. And it is big. It is just a neat house."
"It doesn't seem big when you are in it," Paulette Frey added. "But when you go into a small house, then this one feels really big."
"We can never move," Robert Frey said. "We have it full of stuff and would have to throw half of it away and we can never agree about what to throw away."
But most of all, the Freys are quick to point out that whether in the house or on the front verandah or on the second floor balcony, it is a very quiet house, sedate in its niche above downtown Havre.
Information for this story came from "Historic Homes of North Central Montana" by Robert Lucke and "Havre, Her Historic Homes" by Jon Axline.