In a small and storied community like Whitefish, it’s often hard to see historic landmarks succumb to the wear of time and age. Casey’s Bar, originally built in the early 1900s and a long-beloved watering hole in the area, was one of those relics of the town’s past that was in need of an update. So in 2011 the old Casey’s was razed and the new Casey’s was born out of a desire to pay homage to that history.
BY Alethea Schaus and Ryan Waterfield
Standing at the corner of Central Avenue and First Street in downtown Whitefish, the new Casey’s Pub and Grill is a five-story establishment rebuilt on the site of the original two-story building. Now a 17,000-square-foot bar, grill, dance club and event venue, Casey’s boasts incredible amenities and stunning rooftop views of downtown, Whitefish Mountain Resort, and the surrounding mountains and valley stretching to Flathead Lake, Glacier National Park, and Canada.
You’d be hard-pressed to find a Whitefish local of a certain age without a memorable Casey’s story. Mike Goguen, the owner of the new Casey’s Pub and Grill and generous contributor to many local organizations and endeavors, brought to the rebuild a deep appreciation for the community’s affinity for the building and a strong vision of what the site could become for Whitefish residents and visitors. Because Casey’s was so much a part of the fabric of the community, Goguen and the rebuild team worked to pay homage to the history while creating a building for the 21st century.
The architecture and design of Casey’s Pub and Grill are conversant with the downtown Whitefish architectural vernacular while still offering a touch of modernity. The brick exterior is subtle and classic while the stylishly appointed and heated rooftop bar has quickly become one of Whitefish’s favorite hangout spots. The high-class finishes and the iPad-controlled televisions and sound system are reminders that with upgrades come many bonuses. Since reopening, the increase in traffic at Casey’s affirms that the town of Whitefish was ready for a place to gather, socialize, and celebrate like the new Casey’s.
History and Heart
“I will always remember the day we took the old Casey’s down,” recalled Joe Hill, project manager for the Casey’s rebuild via Frontier Builders at Whitefish. “So many people gathered downtown to watch the demolition. The old structure was compromised and ready for a fresh start. There was a lot of history and heart in that old building.”
During demolition, the team brought in an antique fire truck that added to the historic character of the event, and most onlookers had some kind of story about the place. Once reconstruction began, the crews worked in the wet clay for nearly four months to solidify the new foundation of the building. Local old-timers shared memories of cabins that stood nearby and creeks that flowed where Central Avenue runs now.
Because of the site’s soil composition and project specifications, ensuring the stability of the structure and safety of the crews and surrounding buildings during the early stages was extremely important. “The whole team did an amazing job during those early months—there were some decent challenges and it was an incredible accomplishment to achieve the first floor and continue upward,” Hill said. “We completed it all in just under a year’s time. The challenge was definitely worth the outcome.”
Serving Whitefish on Multiple Levels
Casey’s Pub and Grill offers guests four levels of amenities. Above the building’s basement with a full kitchen, bathrooms, and staff office space, the first floor street-level welcomes guests to an Irish pub atmosphere. In keeping with the building’s history, open-air seating along Central Avenue complements a full bar, grill, gaming machines, and bathrooms. The detailing in the wooden bars on both the first and second floor is worth a visit in itself. The second floor offers another full bar, dance floor, stage, and event space equipped with state-of-the-art audio and visuals. Up another short flight of stairs, a lounge area with a fireplace and comfortable and stylish seating provides an intimate gathering space. The exterior doors in this space echo those on the Central Avenue level and slide open for interior open-air seating and access to second-story balconies overlooking Central Avenue and First Street. Grasses and sedum growing along the balcony in a living roof system are carried through on higher levels. A third floor mezzanine with a crafted metal railing provides a viewing area to the dance floor and stage below, and it connects the lounge area to the bathrooms, stairs, and elevator to the rooftop. Ascending to the roof, incredible views await with a full bar and grill, comfortable seating, a living roof and water feature, heaters during winter, shade from the summer sun, and a heated/cooled floor system.
It’s a sure bet that none of these amenities were even dreamed of when the original Casey’s came to town. All of this 21st-century detailing may be a far cry from the original two-story building, but the character trait that remains is that Casey’s was then and continues to be now a gathering space for those who love Whitefish and all it has to offer.
Design Incorporates Aged and Historic Character in Modern Building
It’s a delicate dance opting to modernize while still saluting the historic significance of the original building; the success of the dance depends on the relationship between design intent and materials.
“Design and material choices were directed toward a subtle combination of eras and environments,” said Scott Elden, design partner with Montana Creative Architecture + Design. “Because of the close dimensions of the building and lot, we chose to allow the structure to be much of the interior finish—exposed metal beams and brick throughout most of the building. The bricked-in windows on the south side of the building; reclaimed wood and bricks used throughout; details like square bolts on the interior exposed metal beams; the depth of wall panels that vary by floor; and the gradual shift in finishes from first floor to rooftop all contribute to this assemblage of historic and modern.”
Finishes throughout Casey’s transition gradually floor-by-floor from the first level pub’s warm wood and brick character to the second level’s more metropolitan club ambiance and darker finishes. More finishes top off the rooftop’s open-air, metal and glass polish as well as modern resort feel accented with living roof elements and a soothing water feature. Overall, this variance is both stunning and functional. At any given time, several different environments and experiences are available simultaneously within one building.
Through careful and thorough design intention, skilled craftsmanship in structure and detailing, and the use of high quality reclaimed materials, Casey’s is a place that retains great history and heart. Many patrons remark on its established feel. At the rooftop bar, reclaimed oak from a cotton mill in Mississippi complements modern steel and glass. Local artisans honed reclaimed fir timbers from the Cannonball River railroad bridge near Bismark, North Dakota into paneling for interior walls. Reclaimed fir and larch from the old Burlington Northern company horse barn in Somers, Montana provided for the railings on the second floor balconies and most of the interior flooring. The building’s exterior fir siding was salvaged from the old Sawbucks Saloon in Kalispell, Montana.
A Collective Collaboration
Casey’s resurrection required a significant amount of collaboration between the owner, the design and building coordination teams, the city, and the public. “With this project, the design and building teams continued to work together through to the very finish details,” said Elden. “That can be rare in these projects, and it speaks to the true teamwork and heart involved.”
A unified sentiment prevails among those who worked on the project: gratitude for the insight, hard work, and collaboration of all involved. The role of every contributor was vital to Casey’s reemergence from the clay into a unique structure and fine establishment as well as a complement to the community of Whitefish.
The many talented and hard-working people involved in reconstruction of Casey’s Pub and Grill
- City of Whitefish Building and Engineering Departments
- Mike Goguen
- Montana Creative architecture + design
- A2Z Engineering
- JE Engineering; Morrison-Maierle, Inc.
- Piney Creek Interiors
- Jennifer Zetooney; White Cloud Design
- Elden Creative
- St. Marie Graphics
- Frontier Builders at Whitefish – Joe Hill
- Paul Hill
- Eric Payne
Building Subcontracting and Installation
- Sanaris Enterprises, LLC
- Casazza Concrete, Inc.
- Heritage Concrete
- Countryside Welding
- Schellinger Construction
- Double J Roofing
- Roof Works, Inc.
- Morse Drywall and Construction, Inc.
- Panel Creek Construction
- 93 Wood Products
- Young Guns Custom Hardwood Floors
- Architectural Woodwork of Montana
- Vertical Iron Works, LLC
- Shepards Stainless
- Matelli Electric, Inc.
- Helius Lighting Group
- Aura Dynamics
- Van Dort Heating, Inc.
- Muonio Mechanical, Inc.
- Sierra Pacific Windows & Doors
- Advanced Restaurant Supply
- Big Mountain Glass
- General Sheet Metal
- Montana Helical Piers
- Montana Cad
- Otis Elevators
- May Lawn and Home Care