"The rich are different," Scott Fitzgerald said, but after spending a week at a former resort of the very rich, you may be able to adjust to that kind of existence. Swan Lake Valley in Montana was the playground of the millionaire's of a bygone era. Jack Ryan, an executive of the Montana Power Company, originally bought 6,000 acres and built a lakeside resort in the 30's designed by his wife, an artist.
After completion the Ryans used the estate as a summer retreat. They maintained a staff of 7 carpenters, 10-15 gardeners, 2 maids, 2 cooks, a butler, and 2 chauffeurs. The Ryans were known for their lavish parties hosted at Six Mile Estate.
The cluster of lakeside cottages reflects their way of life. Large closets were required because the guests dressed for dinner in the wood paneled Lodge every evening. Every bedroom had a fireplace and a tiled bathroom. Children lived in a separate cabin all their own with a seat in a bay window looking over the lake.
The resort fell into disuse during the war years and was occupied only by a caretaker from 1945 until 1965. In 1965 the estate was bought by a developer who attempted to turn it into a resort with the famous, "Ink Spots," as entertainers. His efforts failed and the estate fell into bankruptcy. Then in the early 70's its current owners acquired Six Mile Estate and have used it as a private resort ever since.
Here is a piece of Montana that will never be duplicated. The buildings, rustic in appearance, were built by master craftsmen. The stonework in the fireplaces and porches would be hard to match these days. Every detail, of every building, is a beautiful display of "wilderness elegance" blending with the aspen and pine trees that render total seclusion to Six Mile.
Ward Whitney, a local carpenter, was in charge of the entire Six Mile Estate construction project that began in 1936. All 13 buildings were under construction at once with over 70 workers and completed in less then 2 years.
Walter Arnold, from Butte, was the architect. There were very few electric tools available for use during construction at that time. Electricity was brought to Six Mile from J.C. Kelly's property (The Kootnai Lodge) and all homeowners along the way benefited.
The stone for all the outside patios and fireplaces was gathered from the north side of the Swan River on what is now the nature trail between the dam and Bigfork. Three masons were involved and some individuals may notice a variation of style.
Nothing was milled on site except for the chambered ceiling molding and valances found in many of the cabins. Much of the hardware was hand forged including the beautiful fireplace screens. The Art Deco style, of that time, is evident in many of the interiors.
Six Mile Estate hasn't changed much in the 68 years since construction was completed. The current owners have owned the property for over 25 years and have diligently tried to maintain its original style and ambiance. It is a magical place where both the young and old will find excitement and tranquility.