This fascinating Queen Anne Victorian home was built in 1894 by Anton Gag as the beginning of what would become a large family of seven children with his second wife Lizzie. Anton was born in Bohemia (now the Czech Republic) in 1858, and was 14 years old when he immigrated to the United States with his parents, sister and brother-in-law, and older brother Joseph in 1873. His eldest sister had arrived three years earlier and was settled in Cottonwood Township, just outside of New Ulm. While his mother moved to live with her daughter, Anton lived with his brother in St. Paul until 1979 when he moved to New Ulm.
Known as an artist, Anton became the protege of August Schell, founder of Schell Brewery and leader of the Turnverein, the German fraternal organization that comprised of the who’s who of New Ulm. Apparently he showed so much promise as an artist that Schell sent him to art school in Chicago and Milwaukee. He married his first wife in 1886, but sadly she passed away 13 months after the wedding, as did his infant daughter a month later. Anton was by this time a respected artist, having a photographic studio to earn income. He also painted landscapes, portraits, and still lifes. Living in an area with strong German-Bohemian immigrant influence, as well as daily influence of old customs, folk songs, and German, his art was greatly influenced by his Bohemian background. His painting, “Attack on New Ulm During the Sioux Outbreak” was painted in 1904 and hangs in the State Capitol in St. Paul.
Artistry and creativity ran in the family, especially in his eldest daughter Wanda. After graduating from New Ulm High in 1912, she went on to study art in St. Paul, Minneapolis, and New York. She eventually became a world-famous watercolor painter and print-maker after a stint in commercial art. Maybe you are familiar with her most famous book, Millions of Cats, written in 1928. It holds the title as the oldest American picture book still in print. Her youngest sister, Falvia, also became an author and illustrator of 8 children’s books and specialized in watercolor paintings. (To learn more about the family of artists, visit the local website)
As for the house, it was sold when Lizzie Gag died in 1918. It languished over the years and six owners until it was purchased by the Wanda Gag House Association in 1988. Over a period of 20 years, it was restored to it’s early 1900s appearance inside and out. Original stenciling in the dining room and parlor have been uncovered, and the exterior colors have been matched to the documented original colors. It was placed on the National Registry of Historic Places in 1979, before restoration. Today it is an interpretive center and museum dedicated to the artistic legacy of the Gag family which the public can tour and visit.