It was Christmas Day in 1983 when Jessica Smith walked in the front door of the nearly 2,600-square-foot log home she now owns at 2938 Rimrock Road.
The floors were covered in striped carpeting, and the kitchen was covered in green linoleum. Used as a rental for years, the log home had lost a bit of its shine, but she knew immediately that it was the home she and her husband, Dean, had been looking for. Their refurbished home is part of the Heritage Home Tour on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
“I lived in a log house near Glacier years ago, and I loved it,” Smith said. “I wanted to find another one. It took ten years before one came available here in Billings.”
The Smith home is among six other homes, including the Moss Mansion, that will be showcased during the tour. Tickets are $20 in advance and can be purchased at any Billings Nursery location, any of the Gainan’s locations, the Moss Mansion, or online at mossmansion.com.
Tickets can also be purchased on Saturday for $25 at any of the homes on the tour. The tour includes the following homes: 2606 Virginia Lane; 135 Yellowstone Ave.; 104 N. 28th St., Unit 402; 1814 Darlene St.; and the Moss Mansion, 914 Division Street.
Countless hours and more than a little elbow grease were spent breathing new life into the Smiths’ home. The thick carpets were pulled up, revealing pegged oak plank floors running the full length of the house. The kitchen required more extensive work, including the need to remove the flooring to access and ultimately replace water and plumbing lines.
Nevertheless, the Smiths painstakingly preserved the original cabinetry, with its simple lines and hammered metal hardware. Fortunately, the distinctive wood beams throughout the main living space were in exceptional condition, their color made only deeper and richer with age.
Facing the front door of the home, it is at first difficult to comprehend the size or shape of the Smith home. It is in fact curved, with gabled wings stretching out to either side of the main entrance, subtly and almost organically mirroring the Rims to the north.
Built in 1939, before wartime constraints on wood and materials, the arc-shaped log house predates the 1944 construction of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Jacobs II Solar Hemicycle house in Madison, Wis.
At the rear of the home, a large overhang shades the south wall in the summer. The arc embraces the back yard and drinks in the sun. The property is a full acre, and the Smiths had a large garden for years that yielded hundreds of pounds of produce — including vegetables used in the filming of “Far and Away” — and from time to time artists would come, the landscape serving as inspiration for paintings. Today, though the garden has been replaced with easier to maintain grass, the relaxing views have no less impact.
The home, which has also been featured in Country Living Magazine, includes three bedrooms, two baths and a sunlit art studio. Paintings, needlework, handcrafted dolls and and other art pieces by Smith are found in every room. Antique furniture — local pieces collected over the decades — are as serviceable as they are charming.
“I love knowing that there has been life around the pieces I’ve found over the years,” Smith says. “Collecting it has been my passion over the years. This isn’t furniture you throw away; you simply find a new purpose for it.”
This annual home tour provides an opportunity to support the ongoing preservation efforts of the Moss Mansion Museum while enjoying an eclectic group of historic homes. From country living in a log house to urban loft living in a historic downtown building, this year’s tour showcases how innovative and comfortable historic structures can be.
Kibler & Kirsch are helping produce the event.