If you know where to look, you can still find BB pellets in the walls of the Lehrkind Mansion.

They were fired by Julius Lehrkind, who build the stately home on Bozeman north side, and his grandson, who were too busy hunting mice to worry much about what future generations would think.

The Lehrkind Mansion, which celebrates its 100th anniversary this weekend, has been many things over the past century. Now in its second incarnation as a bed and breakfast inn, the brick building with its distinctive Queen Anne style turret has been an antique shop, an apartment building, a rehearsal space for bands, and at one point, a repair station for motorcycles.

But for most of its life, it was a home.

"It was certainly a warm and wonderful place to go," said Robert Lehrkind, who spent his boyhood weekend in the 1950s visiting his grandparents, Carl and Helen, at the house. "I can't ever recall being dragged down there."

For the Lehrkind grandchildren, who mowed the lawn and fashioned pea shooters out of weeds they found growing in the fields, the place didn't seem as majestic then as it might appear today.

"The family is taken aback about descriptions of it as a mansion and its connotations," Robert said. "It was an old, hard to maintain house, and that's why it was sold."

Despite its inefficiencies, however, Lehrkind and his brothers have nothing but fond memories of the house. They recall a prodigious asparagus patch, a perpetually full cookie jar in the pantry and massive Fourth of July celebrations that coincided with the birthday of their grandmother.

Now a stockbroker for D.A. Davidson in Bozeman, Robert remembers a marching band of more than a dozen grandchildren, playing kazoo instruments manufactured by a relative .

"Grandpa would be at the head with an American flag, and all the grandchildren would be stair stepped down in order of size," he said. "The kazoo band would march and play for Grandma. Most of it was just loud noise, but there might have been some attempt at a tune."

Julius Lehrkind arrived in Philadelphia in 1860 at the age of 17, after stowing away from his native Germany with his brother. A brewer's apprentice by training, Lehrkind later parlayed his inheritance into breweries in Iowa. When their county there went dry, the large family moved to Bozeman in 1895, drawn by the promise of fresh water and abundant barley.

Lehrkind bought out the Speith and Krug brewing operation and built a massive new brewery on North Wallace, near the Northern Pacific Railroad. The following year, he began work on a home across the street.

"The house was right in the middle of the industrial district," said Bozeman's historic preservation officer, Derek Strahn, "and that speaks to his European roots and living next to where you work, instead of putting distance between where you work and where you live. That's more of an Anglo tradition."

The Lehrkinds might have had other reasons for building a home on the north side of Bozeman, instead of the more fashionable south side.

"They were immigrants, they probably had accents, they were not of the heritage of many of the powers of the day," Strahn said.

The house now stands in isolated elegance in an otherwise industrial district.

"People tell us it's a shame the house is in this neighborhood," said Jon Gerster, who, with Christopher Nixon, currently owns and operates the Lehrkind Mansion Bed and Breakfast. "But the house started the neighborhood. People have talked about moving the house, but it would be easier to repair this part of town than to move the house."

Julius Lehrkind was a forward thinking man, Gerster said, and it's reflected in the construction of his home. The house was electrified from the start, heated by coal and its foundation was built on layers of sand and cork. That bed protected the house from earthquakes and allowed the house to settle evenly, and today, every window opens as smoothly as the day it was installed, Gerster said.

The floors and moldings of the house are fashioned from local Douglas fir, milled in the Springhill area. The exterior was built from bricks that, legend has it, were steeped in beer before they were fired. That might account for the bricks retaining their deep red color and good condition, Gerster said.

Robert Lehrkind has his doubts about the beer treatment, however.

"That doesn't sound like a very frugal German," he said. "I think Julius would rather drink the beer than waste it on bricks."

Julius and Emelie had six children of their own and adopted another four after the death of Julius' brother, Fred. Emelie died soon after the move to Bozeman, and her sister, Lina, relocated from Iowa to help Julius look after the family. Perhaps predictably, she and Julius married in 1899, and they had a son, Herman.

With 11 children in the house, much of the space was given over to 10 bedrooms on the second and third floors. Initially, however, there was just one bathroom for the 13 family members and their one servant.

Much of the house Julius Lehrkind built remains today.

In 1922 Julius died in the master bedroom of a broken heart, they say, following the advent of Prohibition. It was during the 1920s that the family branched out into the soft drink bottling business, which it still owns.

After Julius' death, the home was inherited by his son Carl, who lived there until his death in the mid 1960s. While the furniture was changed, many of the original features were left untouched over the years.

"The neighborhood saved the house to the modern day," Gerster said. "It didn't get caught up with the modernization of the '60s and '70s. The house sat pleasantly neglected."

Molding still rings the walls, designed to hang pictures, and wooden bumpers protect the plaster at the corners of the hallway. The knobs on the oaken bannister still pop out; the massive, claw foot bathtub still has no faucets and every pane of glass is still in place from when the house was built.

Some changes were inevitable, however, and many were necessary. The house was finally insulated in the late '60s, and storm windows are now being installed. The kitchen was moved into what was a sewing room, and a ground floor bathroom replaced the original butler's pantry.

The last three owners of the house have taken pains to restore to its 19th century condition what can be restored. Gerster and Nixon have decorated the house with Victorian furniture and and accessories, like period music boxes, and fret about whether the carpets and closets reflect the right era.

"The character is getting better and better all the time," Strahn said. "They've relied on the accounts of the people who have lived there.

"It's a very significant historical site. I'm glad it's in good hands."


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