Samuel Lewis House
Originally built in 1883, this historic house is a significant landmark in Bozeman. It was the home of Samuel Lewis (1835-1896), who was a leading member of the local African American community in Bozeman between 1868 and 1896. Born in the West Indies, he became a successful barber and miner as adult, and eventually settled in Bozeman where he opened a barbershop and also built and rented four houses. When he died, his estate was worth $25,000; it is likely no other African American in Montana was that wealthy at the time. Lewis is also known for being the brother of Edmonia Lewis (1844-1907), who became a successful sculptor known around the world. The house is also significant for its Queen Anne architecture and reflects Bozeman's development as it evolved from a town with modest homes to more sophisticated ones (Lewis remodeled the house in 1890).
Backstory and Context
Samuel Lewis was born on May 19, 1835 in the West Indies. When he was a young child, he and his parents immigrated to America and settled in Newark, New Jersey. His mother died sometime before 1844 and his father married a Chippewa woman, with whom he had Edmonia. Sadly, Lewis' father died around 1847 and it was at this point that Lewis became a barber, which enabled him to pay for Edmonia's education. He left for California in 1852 and remained there for the next ten years where he continued to work as a barber and got into mining as well. Apparently, he did very well for himself since he traveled to Europe, West Indies, and around America between 1862-1864 before settling in Idaho City, Idaho. There, he opened barbershop and built two properties that unfortunately burned down.
Lewis finally arrived in Bozeman in 1868, just four years after it was founded, and once again opened a barbershop and built homes that he rented. Over the coming years, Lewis, who was only one of ten black residents in Bozeman at the time, gradually made a name for himself in the community as a prosperous barber and landlord. He married a widow with six children in 1884 and they had one son together, Samuel E. Lewis.
Lewis transformed the house into the Queen Anne style, with some East Lake elements included, in 1890. It features stained glass windows, a red-brick exterior, decorative woodwork especially on the porch. Inside, there is a frescoed ceiling, elaborate woodwork, and tin ceiling in the kitchen.
Lewis became ill and passed away in 1896 at the age of 63. The house was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1999 and remains a private residence today.
Pickett, Mary. "Bozeman home links family to black history." Billings Gazette. March 1, 2002. https://billingsgazette.com/lifestyles/bozeman-home-links-family-to-black-history/article_32b88c25-42ca-538a-b84e-24cbca3f5daa.html.
Pickett, Mary. "Samuel W. Lewis: Orphan leaves mark on Bozeman." Billings Gazette. March 1, 2002. https://billingsgazette.com/lifestyles/samuel-w-lewis-orphan-leaves-mark-on-bozeman/article_bf7abce6-bbf5-5fe2-8269-d891f9e0682a.html.
The Montana National Register Sign Program. "Samuel Lewis House." Montana Historical Society. Accessed July 6, 2020. http://digitalvault.mhs.mt.gov/items/show/21034.
Strahn, B. Derek. "Lewis, Samuel, House." National Park Service - National Register of Historic Places Nomination Form. March 18, 1999. https://npgallery.nps.gov/GetAsset/36655e35-5444-440a-b695-c66cd500db74.
Wikimedia Commons: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:BozemanMT_SamuelLewisHouse.jpg