For Logan Leachman, JLF Architects partner, the property he bought outside of Bozeman, Montana, in Bridger Canyon was all of these things.

There are times when a house is more than a house.

A house is a keeper of memories, generations, and traditions.

It can be a vital thread in the fabric of community.

He and his wife Jamie purchased the unique creekside house and land east of town with visions of a tasteful renovation. But before new floorplans could be drawn or any windows could be enlarged, they knew they needed to address an important feature on the property: The Guardian Spirit Whale.

Carver Kevin Sullivan volunteered 70 hours of time to restore a local Montana legend.

Over 40 years ago, the previous owner erected a large wood carving of an orca on a post looking toward the Bridger Mountain Range, which houses Bridger Bowl Ski Area. Over the years, it became a totem for avid skiers who placed faith in the power of the whale to make or break a good ski day. The legend prescribed that one should never look at the mythical whale on the way up to Bridger or risk having a bad day on the slopes, but one should religiously thank the whale on the way home to garner good luck for another day. The regular homage to the Guardian Spirit Whale has been passed on from one generation of skiers and snowboarders to the next, including Leachman’s own kids who grew up on Bridger Bowl’s friendly runs. But when he acquired the property, he noted that the whale was in sad shape and in need of a complete overhaul.

The greater Bozeman community took note of the effort, featuring the thoughtful restoration in Big Sky Journal and the local newspaper to keep Whale followers abreast. The totem was removed after the winter season and taken into the shop of carver Kevin Sullivan, a design-build partner at Dovetail Construction. Restoring the whale with care over roughly 70 hours, shaping a block of Alaskan yellow cedar with chainsaws and chisels, Sullivan brought it back to fine form. He supervised its placement on Leachman’s property as a crane set the 300-pound wooden whale onto a 20-foot pole. And so, the legend lives on.

As much as every JLF Architects’ design-build home is a collective of creative conversations and craftsmanship, we also celebrate the link to a place that anchors every project. Connections come in all forms, large and small, but each one should be treated equally. In the case of the Bridger Canyon Guardian Spirit Whale, the JLF team applied every bit as much effort to restoring its form as it would put into a custom home. The details matter.

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