Archive for the ‘St Paul Historic Homes’ Category

Ramsey Hill Folk Victorian – 537 Holly Avenue

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2015
537 Holly Avenue, Saint Paul, MN

537 Holly Avenue

Charles L. Johnston House

When Charles L. Johnston, Vice President of the D.S.B Johnston Land Company, was married in the fall of 1882, it is easy to imagine that this Folk Victorian home was a wedding gift to his new bride, Jennie. The house was completed less than a year later in 1883. The Johnston family remained in the home until 1896 when it was sold to Dr. George E. Routh, a local physician and surgeon.

The original transom windows are still present, as is a lovely tiled fireplace surround in the upstairs bedroom. Hidden behind the hallway closets is the original second staircase, no longer used, which descends to the kitchen. The original sleeping porch has been restored too!

WCCO coverage of the Ramsey Hill House Tour

Thursday, September 19th, 2013

Check out this mornings LIVE WCCO interview for the Ramsey Hill House Tour. I was up at 4 am to get to the shoot and it was really fun! Writing for the last three tours has been educational and every one has been different. Though each is a lot of work, I look forward to the next tour in 2015!

Make sure to come out tonight! The tour runs from 4-9pm and tickets can be bought at 301 Summit Avenue in St. Paul (the Germanic American Institute). Hope to see you there! You can also visit for more information.

Ramsey Hill House Tour video of the Louis Hill Mansion on Summit Avenue

Wednesday, September 18th, 2013

Best Home of the Summit Hill House Tour

Sunday, September 9th, 2012

By far the best home on the 2012 Summit Hill House Tour in St. Paul was 7 Heather  Place. Of course, I will throw in 5 Heather Place too, as they both are attached. These two homes are amazing, not only for their unique exterior facade, but also for their beautifully decorated interiors.

Built by two Jewish brothers in 1905-1906, Benjamin and William Goodkind were the president and secretary treasurer of St. Paul’s Mannheimer Brothers Department Store. The architectural firm of Reed and Stem, who are well known for the St. Paul Hotel, Grand Central Terminal in New York, and several homes in St. Paul, were commissioned to design the Tudor Revival homes, connecting them via the “Passover” seen below.

While the two homes have been “separated” by building bedrooms in the once long hall, they still appear as one to the casual observer. The original stone staircase stretching down to Grand Avenue from this central area is still present and the grounds are beautifully landscaped. 

It is hard to pick a favorite room in 7 Heather Place. I loved the kitchen with its original icebox and old world feel. The home has extensive woodwork and wood paneling throughout, and has the best little spiral staircase to the lower level that I have seen.  While the home is stretched long to fit the space, it is perfectly situated on one of the most amazing bluff sites in St. Paul.

Photo of the twin homes under construction in 1906 and another in 1915.

Other homes designed by Reed and Stem are 489 Grand Hill, 530 Grand Hill, 340 Summit Avenue.

Burbank-Livingston-Griggs House on Summit

Thursday, July 14th, 2011

432 Summit Avenue, St. Paul
The Burbank-Livingston-Griggs is the second oldest home still standing on the avenue and was built by James Burbank in 1862. It is constructed of Mendota Limestone and was designed by Otis E. Wheelock of Chicago. Over the years the home has been touched by some of the most famous architects in Minnesota, including Clarence Johnston (1884), Allen Stem (1925), and Edwin Lundie.

The home is a fantastic representation of the Italianate style that was very popular from 1840-1880. Of the five Italian style villas built on the bluff, only two remain. Key exterior features of the home are the cupola that sits on top of the roof, the low pitched roof, tall narrow windows with arches, and large decorative brackets at the eaves. The home is situated on an acre of land and boasts a little over 10,000 square feet. With 7 bedrooms and 4.5 bathrooms, the home is larger than it seems from the outside. Those lucky enough to see the inside would be astounded by the beauty. Mrs Theodore Griggs had many rooms imported after 1900 including a French drawing room, an Elizabethan study, and Italian paneled dining room, and a marble corridor to the mirrored ballroom. The last recorded sale of the home was in 1996 and is believed to be the only sale of the home in the last century.

The Weyerhaeuser Mansion in St. Paul

Monday, June 20th, 2011
480 Grand Hill, St. Paul, Minnesota

Designed by William Channing Whitney and built in 1908, this grand Tudor Revival historic home was fashioned for Frederick Weyerhaeuser towards the end of his life (1834-1912). He was a German immigrant from Niedersaulheim, Rhein-Hesse who began his lumber career in Illinois around 1858.

When he first arrived to the States in 1852, he was penniless. He worked as a day laborer in Pennsylvania, married, and a few years later moved to Illinois. There he worked on a railroad as a carter, then at a sawmill and a timber mill. Soon thereafter he acquired both businesses and furthered his holdings, buying up large tracts of land filled with quality timber. He became know in the world as the “Timber King”. Later, he moved his headquarters to St. Paul, MN in 1891 where he quickly became friends with James J. Hill. His accumulation of wealth through hard work is just another example of the great opportunities available in the States, and the dream that is America.

The house sits on a lovely bluff site overlooking St. Paul and has around 11,000 square feet. The woodwork decorating the home is quite beautiful, especially in the large foyer. Probably my favorite feature is the inset fireplace, big enough to fit a few chairs inside to enjoy the warmth of the fire on our cold Minnesota winter nights.

Short Biography

Brick Tudor Revival Home on Portland

Monday, February 28th, 2011

487 Portland Avenue, Saint Paul

This stately Tudor Revival home is just over 100 years old having been designed by Thomas Holyoke in 1909. Built for Charles Bigelow III, president of Saint Paul Fire and Marine Insurance from 1876-1911, the home has a sister house right next door at 495 Portland, which was built the same year and by the same architect for Fred Bigelow, his son.

While originally built as a single family home, it is currently two condo units, with the initial divide happening in 1951. The grand staircase was removed at this time, but many original features remain, including the numerous leaded glass windows. In the 1990’s, the current owners renovated the large main floor living room which still retains the original wainscoting. Under decades of paint they uncovered beautiful Honduran Mahogany wood.

View a photo of the two Bigelow homes from 1972.

Germanic Cultural House on Summit Avenue

Monday, January 31st, 2011

301 Summit Avenue, St. Paul
Built in 1905 by George Gardner at a price of $28,000 this Georgian Revival home was designed by Thomas Holyoke. Holyoke was the chief draftsman for the famous architect Cass Gilbert on the state capital building and also built five homes on Summit Avenue. Another home was originally built on this site in 1882 in the Queen Anne style, but it was moved around the corner to 107 Farrington in 1903.

The home has changed very little since construction. I was able to find a photo of the home as it appeared in 1948, before it became a German cultural center. The original owner, Mr. Gardner, lived in the house up until 1946 when the St. Paul Priory took possession. It wasn’t until 1966 when the current owners bought the home for $60,000 by selling bonds, and it became the Volksfest Kultur Haus. In 1990, the organization changed its name to the Germanic American Institute.

I have had the privilege of viewing the home during a past Historic House Tour and the home is amazing. There are two grand parlors on the main floor, each flanking a central staircase. The basement is fully utilized and a good place to socialize. German quotes and sayings abound throughout the house. Even though it is no longer used residentially, the Institute fits in nicely on Summit Avenue. There is even a carriage house in the back that looks like a small home, but has around 2000 square feet. If the property were to come up for sale, it would most likely fetch well over $1 Million.

Colonial Revival In Dayton’s Bluff – Saint Paul

Monday, November 1st, 2010

373 North Maple Street, Saint Paul

This beautiful Colonial Revival home was built in 1906 for Peter John by Buechner and Orth. Mr. John was a local shopkeeper and saloon merchant in the Dayton’s bluff area, later becoming a foreman at the Hamm’s Brewery. Louisa, his wife, was from the Hamm brewing family, her father being Theodore Hamm himself.

The home has beautiful architectural details, including the Ionic columns that support the wrap around porch and the limestone base. One of my favorite details is the basement arches with the original iron grating that looks like sun rays.

Brick and Stone House on Summit Avenue

Thursday, June 24th, 2010
332 Summit Avenue, St. Paul, Minnesota

Built in 1889 by Edgar Long, the home was designed by the Cass Gilbert and James Taylor (who also built together the home next door, 322-324 Summit Avenue). At the time, this amazing home was built for only $30,000. It is reported that Mr. Long was the in the lumber business, as were many of the wealthy home owners on Summit, and the general manager of the Railway Supply Company.

Amazingly, not much has changed with this home. While many homes in the area have lost their porches, or had additions put on the home, this home has only had a few minor changes. The coach port, as seen in this photo, has been enclosed and now houses the kitchen on the main floor, with a sun room on the second level (addition). For the grand homes on this side of Summit, the kitchens were originally located in the basement, with food delivered via dumb-waiters. It was believed that the smell of food would cause appetites to sour, so all food was prepared below the home. The new kitchen, since placed in the once porte cochere, has the exterior wall of the home as an interior wall, letting you see the grand door arches that were once entrances into the home from a carriage.

The rear of the home has seen some changes, namely to the porch stairs, as well as the missing railing on the top balcony, and the third story breeze way has been enclosed with glass. You can see how the home looked in 1890 from this photo.

At about 7600 square feet, the home is very large, with seven bedrooms, five bathrooms, and a third story game room. One of the draw backs would be the one car garage underneath the kitchen, but many of these homes lack adequate garage stalls. The saving grace is that the garage is a drive through into the back yard, offering further private parking if needed. When these mansions were built, carriage houses existed to the rear of the home, but most of these are long gone. At 332 Summit, the ruins of the original carriage house are still present.

The home recently sold in 2006 for $1,499,000.