Archive for the ‘Minnesota Historic Homes’ Category

The Day – Lewis House in Hastings

Friday, April 12th, 2019
200-202 E 7th Street, Hastings

At the corner of 7th and Sibley in Hastings sits a piece of local history that has a mysterious beginning. The Day-Lewis House reportedly dates back to around 1860 when it was built in a simple Greek Revival – Farmhouse Vernacular style. The fact that the home remains in a mostly unaltered exterior state is phenomenal, especially with its 6-over-6 double hung windows.

Benjamin Day hailed from the state of Maine, relocating to Hastings in 1856 and opening up a carpentry shop downtown. Though he purchased the lot the home sits on that same year, he never built a home there, but instead sold the lot to William Lewis in 1857. One would think that the home was then built on the lot, since historians believe the home was constructed around 1860, but records show no home was present until at least after 1867 (see map below).

1867 Bird’s Eye View Map of Hastings showing a vacant lot

Records show that the Lewis family also purchased the lot behind the home in 1867, thus giving the impression that he was preparing to build on the land. Knowing local history, it could be reasoned that no building happened on the land earlier due to the financial crises of 1857-1859, and then the beginning of the Civil War. It could then be guessed that the home arrived shortly thereafter 1867, either built as-is or being moved from another location in Hastings or the defunct settlement of Nininger (Nininger suffered greatly during the financial crisis and was largely abandoned by 1867). OR…the historians have the date of construction wrong and it actually was built circa 1868.

Having reviewed the pages of the original abstract, no mortgage was taken out on the lot by Lewis (which would indicate a home stood there), and according to an article about a previous owner, it was discovered that the house had no footings about 20 years ago when he decided to jack the house and install a basement. The only thing holding up the home was dirt, or a small stone foundation. If only more records existed to tell us how this home came to be! So for now, the home is keeping its original origin and year of construction a mystery…but we can still at least appreciate its will to survive.

An older photo of the home

As for William Lewis, he lived in the home with his family until his death in 1872 and it remained in the family until 1887. It has gone back and forth as a duplex or single family home, and is currently For Sale.

More photos of the home can be viewed HERE

The Thomas F. Cowing House

Thursday, March 14th, 2019
316 Jefferson Street, Alexandria

This lovely Gothic Revival home was built circa 1875 for Thomas F. Cowing and was originally surrounded by acres of farmland. It was constructed just a 1/4 mile from Fort Alexandria. Being one of the oldest homes in Alexandria, and known as the House of Seven Gables, it is a well preserved example of an early cottage home design from Andrew Jackson Downing. Downing changed the the perception of American architecture when his book “The Architecture of Country Houses” was published in 1850.

Cowing was born in England in 1841 and immigrated to Wisconsin around 1850 with his parents. They, wanting to open a stagecoach business and hotel, moved the family to Alexandria circa 1862, where the family and children prospered. After serving in the Civil War, Cowing moved back to Alexandria and opened a general merchandise and farm store. A few years later he became Douglas County’s first sheriff and first treasurer. By 1880, he was President of the village council.

It was in 1885 that Cowing moved his family to Fergus Falls to take up the position of Registrar of the U.S. Land Office. He sold the house to Gustave Kortsch, a German immigrant, who owned a local general store. The house must have provided luck to each of its owners for Kortsch’s store enjoyed such success that is transformed into a department store, and was bought by the Herberger Company in 1914. The home remained in the Kortsch family until 1948.

House circa 1876

It’s always exciting when an old photograph still exists that shows how much of a historic home exterior is intact, and how much has been lost. For the most part, the Cowing house is well preserved. As seen in the photo above, the decorative bargeboard in the gables and cutout wooden finials have been lost, as has the small balcony above the front porch, but the windows and two of the original porches still remain. Past photos of the interior show that much of the original character has been preserved as well.

The Peter A. Dague House

Monday, February 25th, 2019
2520 Stevens Avenue S, Minneapolis

A simple house sitting on a simple street in the Whittier neighborhood of Minneapolis. The home was built in 1893 by Pike and Cook for Peter Dague and his wife.

Peter Alexander Dague was born in Pennsylvania in 1829 to a family of eight children. The family moved a few years after his birth to Ohio, where Peter eventually met his wife, Margaret Frees, and had a son in 1853. A carpenter by trade, Dague moved his family to Minneapolis around 1855 most likely with the promise of work for a fledgling city that was still a Territory.

In 1871, Dague built a family home at 2418-2420 Fremont Ave S, a Greek Revival styled home that still stands today, but has been slightly modified over time and is currently a tri-plex. It still retains the front gable with broken pediment, oculus window, and narrow windows on the second floor (even thought the original double hung windows have been replaced in the last four years). Unfortunately it’s current owners have no idea of the history they possess – the home is the oldest surviving building west of Hennepin in the Kenwood, East Ilses, and Lowery neighborhoods.

After Dague’s daughter was married in the home on Fremont in 1880 and both his children moved away to Deadwood in the Dakota Territory, he decided to build a new home. A woodshop was built onsite in 1886, but construction didn’t begin on the house until 1893. Sadly, tragedy struck that Spring and his wife died at the age of 60. From stories found in my research, Peter’s will to live after his wife’s death greatly diminished, and he died 9 months later in January 1894.

Dague was an avid builder in Minneapolis and is noted for helping build a small town in the Minnesota territory into what we see today; however, only the two historic homes he built are believed to remain. He is credited with building the Free Will Baptist Church in downtown Minneapolis at 7th and Helen (now 2nd Ave S), or 1st Ave S, since demolished.

Free Will Baptist Church, circa 1878

The Williamson-Russell-Rahilly House in Lake City

Thursday, November 29th, 2018
304 S Oak Street, Lake City

The Williamson-Russell-Rahilly House is a another great example of how historic homes change over time. Similar to the renovation of the Augustine Hawley House in Red Wing, this grand home began in the Greek Revival style when constructed in 1868. Built for Harvey Williamson by carpenter John Stout, the home was renovated in 1910 by the third owner, Patrick Henry Rahill, in the Neo-classical/ Classical Revival style.

Photo of Home in Greek Revival style, circa 1900

The very first home that was built on site was constructed in 1855 by one of Lake City’s founders, Samuel Doughty. It was purchased a few years later by the city’s first postmaster, Harvey Williamson, however, it burned down sometime around 1867. Williamson took the opportunity to build a new home on its foundation in the Greek Revival style. It featured 6-over-6 double hung windows, engaged columns, two small porches, and a side gabled roof with simple open pediment and wood frieze.

Williamson sold the home to Morris C. Russell circa 1882. Russell had an adventure type past. He was born in Pennsylvania in 1840 to a father who not only farmed his land but was the manager of his brother’s iron mines. From the age of 10, he worked on the farm, in the iron mines, and as a clerk in his uncle’s supply store. When he was 14, his father gave him permission to move to the Minnesota Territory, a wild region which 3 of his brothers had already moved to a few years earlier. It was on the Hamburg steamer, landing in La Crosse, that he survived a cholera outbreak that killed hundreds of passengers. Eventually arriving in Saint Paul, he worked for a few years as a flatboater, “polling” cargo up the rivers, and delivered the first piano into the Minnesota Valley. On one expedition with his brothers, delivering timber to Saint Paul from the Big Woods, his raft was windblown into a river bank due to spring headwinds. They spent a week living off bark, roots, and some spoiled herring until they were rescued.

Morris Craw Russell

Russell was well acquainted with many of the local Indian chiefs and served as a Scout in the Sioux Uprising of 1862. In 1872 he founded The Brainerd Tribune, the first newspaper on the Northern Pacific Railroad east of the Rockies. A few years later, he was associate editor of Lake City’s first newspaper, The Lake City Leader, and then started this own paper, Graph-Sentinel.

As for the house, he lived in it only a year, selling to the Buck family, owner’s of the city general store. It was in 1901, that the home was purchased by Patrick Henry Rahilly. He is best know for serving in the Minnesota House legislature for three terms, and as a State Senator for one. He is the reason for the home’s Neoclassical design seen today, commissioning local architect Charles Koch in 1910 to dramatically change the facade. Four 30-foot Ionic columns were added under a fully pedimented gable to the front facade as was a porte cochere to the side of the home (among other renovations as well). The original elements of the interior remained, including five fireplaces, four of Italian marble and one of blue African marble. Woods found in the home are mahogany, quarter-sawn oak, and walnut. The home remained in the Rahilly family until 1963.

Medayto Cottage, also known as Spicer Castle

Thursday, September 27th, 2018

Spicer Castle on Green Lake

Medayto Cottage, Spicer, MN

Originally named Medayto Cottage, this grand home sitting on Green Lake in Spicer, Minnesota was built in circa 1895 by John M. Spicer.  To this day it is still owned by the family and, for the last 20 years, has been run as a Bed and Breakfast by his great-granddaughter under the name Spicer Castle. ( in Dakota “Medayto” translates to “Green Lake”)

John Mason Spicer was born 1841 in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, the son of a Swiss father and Irish mother, and the only boy in a household of nine children. In 1852 his family moved to Illinois where he later took a position as a clerk in a general merchandising firm. Eight years later he was transferred to St. Paul, Minnesota, but took up a position soon after with Ingersoll and Company. Looking to expand into Belle Plaine, he was offered a partnership with Ingersoll and became a manager of a new store in that area. While in Belle Plaine, he met his future wife, Frances Deming, and in 1871, moved to Willmar, and established a general merchandise and farm implement business with Andrew Larson.

As the local community grew, Spicer furthered his business ventures by organizing the Kandiyohi County Bank in 1879 with other investors (of which he was president of the bank until 1884) and also formed  the Central Land Company in 1882. It was in this same year that Spicer helped champion the idea of creating a railroad line through the county, connecting the region with Duluth and southwest Minnesota. The Lake Superior, Willmar, and Dakota Railroad Company was formed in 1883 with Spiced elected as its president. An astounding $1.25 Million was raised ($31 Million in today’s dollars) for construction of the new line. With James J. Hill’s support, the line from St. Cloud to Willmar was completed in 1886. Another line, from Willmar to Souix Falls was completed in 1888.

Having become a major land owner and developer in Kandiyohi County, Spicer built Medayto Farm on a large parcel of lakeshore  on the south side of Green Lake in 1885. Ten years later he built his summer home Medayto Cottage over looking the lake.

Medayto Cottage as originally built in the Queen Anne Victorian style

It was in the 1930’s that local fishermen began commonly identifying the home for locating fishing spots as Spicer’s Castle, and the name stuck. Now known as Spicer Castle, even though none of his seven children or grandchildren were allowed to call it a “castle”, the home was enlarged and redesigned in the Tudor Revival style in 1913 with the help of Minneapolis architect J. E. Mason. It sits on 5 acres of lakeshore and still has the original bee house, greenhouse, barn, and a small log cottage on the property, though all have been turned into private rooms for the bed and breakfast. It is listed on the National Registry of Historic Places.

Below is a short video story of Spicer Castle with current owners, the grandson and granddaughter of John Spicer.

 

Here are some old photos of the home and property supplied by the Spicer family:

Medayto Cottage as originally designed in the Queen Anne Victorian style
Spicer's Castle shortly after renovation in 1913
Family sitting by the lagoon created on the property
View of beach with slide and boats
View of Medayto Farm

The Jonathan Grimes House in Edina

Wednesday, July 18th, 2018

Grimes House Edina MN

4200 W 44th Street, Edina

The Morningside neighborhood in Edina owes much of its land to an early pioneer who settled the area in the late 1850s. Jonathan Grimes,  along with his wife Elizabeth, were the first to settle in the Edina Mills district when they opened up a small nursery in 1858. Known as the Lake Calhoun Nursery, the business supplied boulevard trees in the city of Minneapolis, especially the Catapla tree, which the Grimes introduced to Minnesota. Grimes later became the first president of the Minnesota State Horticulture Society.

In 1859, Grimes bought the Waterville Mill (later renamed the Edina Mill), making much needed improvents to the dam and spillway. The mill supplied flour to the Fort Snelling Reserve during the Civil War and operated 24 hours a day during the early years of the war to keep up with demand.  Grimes sold the mill in 1867, and two years later, built his new home.

4200 W 44th Street, Edina

Side view of Home

Now the oldest standing home in Edina, the Grimes house is a great example of Gothic Revival architecture and is thought to be designed from a pattern book published in the 1850s. It was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1975 and is a Heritage Landmark in Edina.

The Schillinger-Brings House in Saint Paul

Tuesday, June 19th, 2018

178 Goodrich Avenue Saint Paul MN

178 Goodrich Avenue, Saint Paul

This simple stone house with it’s hipped roof was built in 1859 by John Schillinger of locally quarried limestone. The home originally stood at 314 Smith (Oak) Street and was moved to its current location in 1989 to save it from demolition. It is one of the last remaining Pioneer era solid stone buildings in Saint Paul. The home is a great example of how early Minnesota homes mixed styles: the 6 over 6 double hung windows point to Greek Revival, while the hipped roof shows Italianate influence. The front porch was added circa 1890.

The house circa 1900 as it stood on Oak Street, later to be renamed Smith Street.

Schillinger and his wife were born in Weggis, Swizterland in 1823 and 1830, respectively, immigrating to America and settling in Saint Paul. He was a skilled stonemason and it is believed he built the home himself. In 1863, the home was sold to Joseph and Lucia Brings, recent immigrants from Germany, for $1300. Joseph worked as a cooper and operated out of his new home for a few years. Ever the entrepreneur, he expanded his business to include a saloon, grocery, and feed store. The Brings family raised 8 children in the home until they sold the home in 1873 and moved to the second story of their store on Fort Street, now known as West Seventh Street.

There is an excellent article about the history of this long standing Saint Paul family published by the Ramsey County Historical Society in 2015 which can be read here.

The Burwell House in Minnetonka

Monday, May 21st, 2018

The Burwell House in Minnetonka, MN

13209 Minnetonka Blvd, Minnetonka

Built in 1883, the Burwell House was constructed by Charles Henry Burwell for his growing family, second wife and four children. Mr. Burwell was the Manager of the Minnetonka Mills Company beginning in 1874 until the mill’s demise in 1886. The land was purchased from the mill at a cost of $1000, and the house was built from a design found in the Palliser’s American Cottage Home catalog (see below). It is said to have cost a mere $3260 to build.

While the home is said to be in the Italianate style, I really feel it is an “in-between” house. The home does not have any strong Italianate features like window hoods, bracketed eves, or low pitched gables. In my opinion, it is more a cross between an Italian Villa, which features a central tower, and the Victorian Folk style. The home was built at the very end of the Italian popularity, but in the middle of Folk period. It is not always easy to pin down a single style to Victorian era homes, but it is easy to see architectural influences in some of them. One part of the home not originally built in 1883, is the wrap around porch. Added on somewhere between 1989-1906, it is a good example of the Eastlake influence, with its elaborate spindles and woodwork.

Burwell House Tower

Additional Out Buildings

The cottage (upper left) was moved to the site in 1894 from the Minnetonka Mills site to house Mr. Burwell’s widowed mother. It is one of the original 15 cottages constructed to house mill workers. The summer kitchen (upper right) was added to the home in 1892.

The mill office (lower left) was Mr. Burwell’s office and was moved to the site in 1894. It now serves as the Minnetonka Historical Society building.The final photograph is of the original ice house (lower right).

The home is listed on the National Registry of Historic Places and is owned by the City of Minnetonka. Summer tours are available from June to August.

 

The Augustine B. Hawley House in Red Wing

Wednesday, April 18th, 2018

Augustine B. Hawley House in Red Wing

1105 4th Street W., Red Wing

On a large corner lot in Red Wing, sits a grand old home that can’t be missed, what with its purple porch and decorative eaves and brackets. It’s the home that Augustine Boyer Hawley built for his extended family in 1875. Sadly, he only enjoyed it for few years, dying at the young age of 44 in 1878, leaving behind his wife and 8 children.

The Man

One of the most generous things an old Minnesota family can do is donate their family history to the Minnesota Historic Society. Letters and papers help tell a story of not only their family members, but many times the history of the places they lived. There is a vast archive at MNHS about the Hawley family in Red Wing, including personal letters, that are a very intriguing read about the Hawley family, Red Wing, and history of the Minnesota and the United States.

Augustine Hawley arrived in Red Wing in 1857 to set up his medical practice, at the urging of a fellow Hobart classmate, and quickly became one of the preferred physicians in the area, traveling often to the countryside to see patients who were unable to come to town. He is described as a man of great character, intelligence, and charity. He was born in Caroline, New York in 1833 to Isaac A. Hawley and Anne Boyer, his father being a professor of the Classics at the University of Virginia.  In 1847, he entered Hobart College at the age of 14 and graduated with a Master of Arts degree in 1852. He went on to obtain his medical degree from Geneva Medical School in 1854. He studied medicine with his uncle, Dr. Joel Hawley, but continued his studies overseas for two more years in Edinburgh, Scotland, as well as Dublin, London, and Paris, before moving to Minnesota. During the Civil War, he was appointed to sit on the examination board to qualify surgeon applicants heading out to various regiments of the Minnesota Volunteers.

Hawley was instrumental in helping establish the Christ Episcopal Church in Red Wing, inspiring his college classmate Reverend Edward. R. Welles to move to Red Wing to become the church’s first minister. Welles later became the first Episcopal bishop of Wisconsin. He also encouraged a fellow class mate of Hobart College, Dr. Charles Hewitt, to move to Red Wing to take over his medical practice in 1867.  Hewitt, already a distinguished doctor for his surgeon skills and preventative approach to medicine, agreed. Hewitt later helped found the Minnesota State Board of Health in 1872, and after studying at the Pasteur Institute in Paris, in 1890, he established the first laboratory for producing the smallpox vaccine in the United States on Dakota Street.

The House

The home was built circa 1875 in the Italianate style out of locally quarried limestone. It features 15 foot tall ceilings and 18+ inch thick walls. The photo below shows details of the original front porch: thinner columns, decorative brackets, and a narrow full facade porch (all indicative of the Italianate period). In 1903, the home was purchased by Albert F. Bullen, secretary and treasurer of the Minnesota Malting Company, who initiated a major remodel of the home two years later. The architectural firm of Purcell and Elmslie was hired to transform the interior of the home into the more up-to-date Arts & Crafts style that was popular at the beginning of the 20th century. Today the home is a fine example of how even historic homes, at one time, have undergone remodels to more “modern” styles.

Photo of Home Circa 1875

As for the Arts and Craft remodel, the original oak staircase, which extended straight down towards the front entrance, was replaced by a curved walnut staircase extending into what was once a main floor bedroom. A formal dining room, with coffered ceiling, paneled walls, and an elaborate buffet, replaced a second, main floor bedroom. (These two bedrooms were occupied by the 2 dowagers, Mr. Halwey’s mother and his mother-in-law.) The formal living room was expanded from two rooms into one with major additions: grand wood beams to the ceiling, relocation of the fireplace, tapestry applied to the walls, and Tiffany light fixtures. The front porch was enlarged and changed to what is seen today.

A year before Mr. Bullen’s death, he sold the home to Henry Stebbins, President of the Red Wing Milling Company. Interestingly, Stebbins sold the home 12 years later to the next President of the same company, Harold Meech. Today, the home still retains most of the original features from the 1905 remodel, as well as many of the original 1875 exterior Italianate features. It now operates as the Moondance Inn, an established bed and breakfast in Red Wing.

Story

The Hawley family has many stories that contribute to the history of Red Wing and Minnesota. One interesting story involves the famous bank robbery in Northfield by the James and Younger gangs in 1876. Some of the gang members stopped in Red Wing before the robbery, and upon leaving, asked a six year old boy playing on the side of the road the best way to get to Northfield. The boy told them, and in return was given a silver dollar in thanks. After news of the robbery reached Red Wing, it was found out that the men asking for directions were the robbers, and the one who tossed the coin to the boy was Cole Younger. The boy was George M. B. Hawley, the young son of Augustine Hawley.

The Bed and Breakfast is also For Sale with more photos and interactive tour at the Property Website.

The front porch remodeled in 1905.
The front parlor originally had a corner coal burning fireplace.
The main living room was opened up from two rooms with the addition of a wood burning fireplace during the 1905 remodel.
The formal dining room was created from an original bedroom in the 1905 remodel.
This room was originally a front bedroom and was opened up during the 1905 remodel for the new staircase.
A chandelier thought to be from the 1905 remodel.
The staircase redesigned during the 1905 remodel
The newel post design from the 1905 remodel includes a motif that became a signature design element of architect and designer George Elmslie.

The Leedom Sharp House in St. Paul

Monday, January 15th, 2018

20-22 N. Kent, St. Paul

If you were a senior railroad employee in the late 1800’s, this home could have been the place your family resided while you traveled for work. Designed by Cass Gilbert and James Knox Taylor and built in 1889 as a double house, the residence of 20 Kent was designed for Leedom Sharp.

Sharp was born in New York City Janurary 20, 1860 to Benjamin Sharp and Hannah Leedom. His grandfather, John Sharp, immigrated from Yorkshire, England in 1815 and was a prominent merchant in Philadelphia, while his great-grandfather Leedom arrived in America much earlier and was a well known iron merchant in Philadelphia.

Leedom Sharp

In 1877, at the age of 17, he entered the Law School of the University of Pennsylvania and graduated three years later (he had to withdraw in 1879 before graduation due to his young age and graduate in 1880 when he would be allowed to enter the Bar at the age of 20). He went into practice, moving to St. Paul sometime in the 1880’s. While living here, he stumped for Benjamin Harrison’s presidential campaigns and found time to develop property in Ramsey Hill. (He commissioned Gilbert to also build rowhouses next door at the corner of Kent and Portland, known as Portland Terrace in 1888). He also found his wife and married in 1884. Discovering he had no taste for the law, he decided to follow in the footsteps of his uncle and brother and study medicine, moving back to Pennsylvania and earning his medical degree in 1895. He was raised a Quaker, and was also a Mason and Knight Templar.

As for the home he lived in for a few short years, the original main floor was divided into a living room and dining room and the living quarters were on the top two floors. There was a a double staircase (now converted to a single staircase) on the main floor, as well as a separate servant’s staircase. During the war, each floor became a separate apartment, but is now again a single family residence.

 

House in 1976