Posts Tagged ‘restoration’

The Anton Gag and Wanda Gag House in New Ulm

Monday, April 3rd, 2017

226 North Washington Street, New Ulm

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.

Details of the restored tower.

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.

The house in 1894 newly built.
The house in 1989 before restoration.
The house as seen today restored
Anton Gag
The Gag family children
“Attack on New Ulm During the Sioux Outbreak"

Wood’s Hilltop Home on Lake Washington

Friday, August 28th, 2015
Wood's Hilltop Beach House

4414 Washington Blvd, Madison Lake

High up on a hill overlooking Lake Washington, not far from Mankato, Minnesota, a beautiful resort hotel called the Belvedere was opened to the public sometime between 1898 and 1900. It was built by Louis A. Linder, a well known businessman from Mankato. The summer hotel quickly became a vacation magnet and popular spot for honeymooners, with wealthy patrons coming from as far away as Chicago. It wasn’t an easy hotel to visit in the early 1900’s. Guests first arrived in the town of Mankato by train, after which they traveled by horse and buggy to Connors’ Farm, just across the lake from the hotel. The last leg of their trip was taken by ferry. One year in a bad storm the ferry sank, but the hotel patrons all survived. The ferry still sits on the bottom of this deep lake today.

Belvedere Hotel Lake Washington
It was on a honeymoon stay at the hotel that led William and Inez Wood to purchase the building in 1921 as their summer home. They had an idea to establish a beach resort at the bottom of the hill along the lake’s shoreline. With the help of their six children, Wood’s Beach became a spectacular beach resort and picnic grounds that attracted weekend visitors from over four counties for more than thirty years. During the 1920’s and 1930’s, the five Wood sons and their father constructed an amazing array of water attractions to please and entertain every member of the family: a very high slide, a lower slide, a water wheel, diving docks, rolling barrels, and rafts. It was a big operation that rented boats and canoes, and even bathing suits. Many people at that time did not own bathing suits, so they paid ten cents to rent a scratchy woolen one, changing in a special beach house on the shores of the lake. The Beach closed down in 1948 and pieces of the original property were slowly sold off. Today, the main house remains with 300 feet of shoreline and stunning views of the lake and sunsets.

The money earned from summer rentals paid for the college education of all six Wood’s children, all of them obtaining higher degrees and having very successful careers.

Wood's Hilltop ChildrenBelow is just a few snippets of their lives:

Delbert L. “Buck” Wood graduated from the St. Paul College of Law. He worked for the FBI for six years during which he headed up investigations of the Capone
Gang and other Mafia organizations. J. Edgar Hoover awarded him three commendations for his outstanding work in the Bureau.

Harland Goff Wood attained international fame in biochemical research. His revolutionary discovery early in his career in 1935 that not only plants, but also animals and humans utilize carbon dioxide for metabolic processes (“CO2 fixation”), resulted in him being nominated twice for the Nobel Prize. Harland also served on the President’s Scientific Advisory Commission under both Presidents Johnson and Nixon.

After graduating from Macalaster College in St. Paul, Louise Wood worked with the National Red Cross in Europe during World War II. Based in London, she directed the USO operations for the American Red Cross for the entire European Theater of Operations. For her efforts and accomplishments in the Red Cross, President Truman awarded her the Medal of Freedom.

Earl H. Wood was internationally celebrated in both cardiology and aerospace medicine. During WWII he was a key figure in the top-secret research at Mayo to develop an anti-gravity “G” suit, and perfected the centrifuge, as well as developed the “M-1” straining/ expiration maneuver to assist pilots in maintaining consciousness when pulling high G’s.

The home is currently For Sale with additional information at the property website.Used seasonally as a summer residence, the home is perfect for year round use or potential B&B, and needs updating. This historic property is looking for a preservation minded buyer who will restore the home and love it as much as the Wood’s family has for the last 94 years.

Great Sources for Hard to Find Replacement Pieces

Thursday, February 19th, 2015

Princeton Historic Home DoorknobRenovating an older home has all kinds of challenges, but sometimes the hardest part is finding replacement pieces. Many times, homes have been stripped of their original light fixtures, stained glass windows, or hardware. Other times, time itself has deteriorated pieces beyond repair. The most aggravating part is trying to find historically accurate replacements that even the pros won’t know aren’t “real”.

Hardware

Hardware can be the most aggravating to find, but luckily there are some companies that still realize old homes need fixing too.

  • Window sashes: First of all, don’t replace your old windows! If you’re in need of some heavy cast iron sash weights, check out Architectural Iron. Missing sash pulleys or sash cords can be found at Smith Restoration Sash.
  • Butler Pantry doors: Door no longer swinging? If your looking for a replacement piece, you won’t find one at Home Depot. Instead, check out Bommer Industries double action spring pivot. Viola, problem solved!
  • Door knobs: Besides going to your local architectural salvage companies to find original door fixtures, you can also try online sites that specialize in reproduction hardware like Crown City Hardware or House of Antique Hardware, as well as look for original pieces on Etsy or Ebay.

Lighting

The most dramatic pieces of a historic home can be the lighting fixtures. Even the smallest can be inspiring. I love walking around auctions, antique stores, and architectural salvage companies to admire the beautiful chandeliers, sconces, and lights for sale. But you can find great fixtures online, too. Rejuvenation has a special “restored antiques” section where you can buy real vintage light fixtures. Some might be expensive, but if you want the real deal, be prepared to drop some cash. In your search, keep an open mind about replacements. While you may not be able to find an exact replica, there are many options available true to the period of your home.

 

The Donaldson House: A Look Into One of Minnesota’s Grand Homes

Wednesday, September 10th, 2014

The Donaldson Mansion was selected last year to be featured in Larry Millet’s new book coming out in November, “Preserving Our Grand Homes: Minnesota’s Own”. It’s being published through the Minnesota Historical Society. Larry gave me a call asking if I knew of any extraordinary homes that might work for his book, and I said, “Well, yes, I think I have just the home you are looking for!”.  The owner was very excited and honored that his home was one of the few that made the cut list.

Larry and crew stopped by a month ago and filmed a short video of the home for the book release, and all I can say is that I wish it was longer!

The Alfred Berry House

Monday, February 27th, 2012
111 Bryant Ave NE, Hector

In 1901 this stylish Victorian was built for Alfred Berry of the Berry Brothers Flour Company in Hector, Minnesota (just 90 miles west of Minneapolis). Amazingly this home was owned by three generations of Berrys from first construction up to 1997, when the last Mrs. Berry passed away. Across the street was the Berry Brothers Flour Mill built in 1899, shown in the photo below. It burned down in 1977.

What I find most intriguing about this home is its story of survival, passed on to me by the current owner. Too many times our historic homes and buildings are cast aside or torn down for something newer and uglier, especially in rural areas of Minnesota. Their vast size and ornate decorations are looked upon as burdens to neighborhoods or cities, without any vision or forward thinking of what they could once again become. Preservation is dear to my heart, and I am very happy to see the Berry House saved from an ugly fate.

In 2006, before the current owner purchased the home, it was slated to go into Section 8 housing by the Minneapolis owner who used it as a rental. The old radiator pipes had been neglected and allowed to freeze, thus rendering them useless, and the rest of the home was in a rapidly declining state. Even though there was a ton of work to do, the new owners had a vision of bringing the home back to its former glory and set out on a restoration project that still continues today. What they have accomplished is simply beautiful, and the residents of Hector are happy to see this home brought back to life.

 The Berry House (Before 2006)

 

The Berry House (After Restoration)
Original Photo of the Home with the Berry Family

If you would like to view additional photos of the renovation, please visit the home owners website or the archived listing on OldHouses.com.

The Sauntry Mansion is Stillwater

Saturday, October 24th, 2009

626 N 4th St, Stillwater

This beautiful Queen Anne historic home in Stillwater was built in 1881 by William Sauntry, a local lumber baron. The Recreation Hall sitting directly behind the mansion, or Gymnasium as it was called back in the day, was built in 1902 in the Moorish style, and is now a separate residence. Both buildings are on the National Registry of Historic Places.

While not a pioneer of the lumber trade in Stillwater, William Sauntry learned his craft from the best, the Timber King Frederick Weyerhaeuser. Weyerhaeuser took Sauntry, who is related to Bing Crosby, under his wing where Sauntry flourished. Sauntry directed the Ann River Logging Company which cut most of the last logs in the St. Croix River Valley. When logging dried up, Sauntry put his money into mining on some lands he owned on the Mesabi range. Not knowing a thing about the mining business, he ended up losing what money he had earned from logging. On November 10, 1914, at the Ryan Hotel in Saint Paul, he committed suicide by shooting himself with a revolver.

Sauntry Mansion in 1921, Courtesy of Minnesota Historical Society

Sauntry Mansion in 1921, Courtesy of Minnesota Historical Society

The Suantry Mansion is now run as a very successful Bed and Breakfast by the current owners, who purchased the home about ten years ago.

Inside the gymnasium in 1919

Inside the gymnasium in 1919, Courtesy of the Minnesota Historical Society