Archive for the ‘Misc’ Category

The Northome Stone Arch

Tuesday, January 28th, 2020
Northome Stone Arch, Deephaven, MN

In an area of Deephaven known mostly to locals is a stone arch rising out of the trees as you drive through a quite neighborhood. On a historic plaque and online photo database, it is stated that the arch was built in 1906 by the German stonemason Florian Huber and that the original double arch was the entrance to the “Cedarhurst” and “Pinecrest” estates. It also states that in 1925, the left arch was removed to make way for larger vehicles, and in 1939, was deeded to the city of Deephaven. BUT according to a historic photo and the Excelsior-Lake Minnetonka Historical Society, the arch was built in the 1870s and was the entrance to the “Northome” mansion built for Charles Gibson, with only one arch.

Original appearance of Northome Stone Arch

While structures like this rarely survive, the dedication to restore the arch in 1986 has helped keep the history of the area alive for future generations.

When the “Northome” mansion burned in 1894, it was replaced by two homes.”Cedarhurst” was built for Russell M Bennett in 1901 and was a two story classic revival home. “Pinecrest” was owned by Joseph E. Clifford. A photo taken in 1904 shows the shoreline of Northome with similar stone structures in a retaining wall.

Unique Historic Home Details – Nursery Rhyme Tile

Friday, March 6th, 2015

I haven’t come across them too often, but when I do, I always try and photograph the nursery rhyme tiles I find in historic homes. They seem to be in homes ranging across a huge span, from the 1890’s to the 1930’s (at least the ones pictured below). I have found them most commonly in fireplace surrounds, but also in children’s bathrooms. Of course I tell owners that they have something special and to preserve them in their natural place in the home. Ripping them out for some “new” trend borders on criminal (at least to a preservationist like me). No matter who seems them, the response is always the same…lot’s of ooh’s and aah’s from the adults, giggling like children at the site of these old nursery rhymes.

Nursery Rhyme Tile at New Victorian Bed and Breakfast

Bathroom Childrens Tile


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 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.


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.


Old Home Certified in Minnesota

Monday, August 4th, 2014

Old Home Certified Minnesota Historic Home AgentSeeking a Realtor® who knows vintage properties?

Jennifer Kirby, the premier go-to real estate agent in Minnesota specializing in historic homes now carries the Old Home Certified designation from the Preservation Alliance of Minnesota’s Cornerstone Academy educational program.

Of course, Jennifer already specializes in old homes and has helped many Minnesotans realize their dream of selling or buying a historic house. This special designation just further helps deliver key insights and information on Minnesota houses and architecture, old home resources, the history of neighborhood development, sustainability in older homes, historic district details and more. The Old Home Certified course is taught by a variety of experts in their respective fields, with two courses taught by Jennifer herself

While a designation is nice to have, proven sales in historic homes is more important. Concentrating on a niche market means Jennifer is able to concentrate her time on the historic home market in the Twin Cities, the surrounding Metro area, and towns throughout Minnesota. She is more than willing to travel to Greater Minnesota to help home owners sell their unique old home, or to help  a buyer not quite sure what to look for when purchasing a home 100+ years old.

Looking to sell or buy a historic home? 

Make your first and only call to Jennifer!


Preservation isn’t just for grand houses

Friday, October 19th, 2012
The log cabin pictured around 1900-10 from Lakeshore Weekly News
So many times when hearing about historic preservation, people immediately think of some Victorian home or historic commercial building that is in need of saving. Either the home or building has fallen into ruin, seen forclosure, been destroyed by fire, been condemed by a city, etc. If it isn’t saved, it will be lost forever. But people often forget that historic preservation has no face and anything deemed to be significant to a community might be in need of saving.
Case in point, a little log cabin in Wayzata (shown above). Lakeshore Weekly News, a newspaper covering the greater Lake Minnetonka area, wrote an article this month about this 100+ year old cabin on Bushaway Road that’s future is not too certain. Irene Stemmer of the Wayzata Heritage Preservation Board is looking to save the little structure, as the current property owner wants it removed. It’s amazing that the cabin has survived this long and not been destroyed by current or previous owners. Besides its age, another cool fact is that the logs of the cabin are made out of Tamarack trees that once flourished in the area, but now no longer exist.
Either originally a squatter’s cabin or trapper’s cabin, according to the article, the log structure is the “oldest house in Wayzata”, says Stemmer. She is looking to save the cabin, but money for restoration and moving fees are still needed in order to preserve a part of the city’s history.
If you would like to look into helping preserve this historic log cabin, please contact Irene Stemmer of the Wayzata Heritage Preservation Board at

Know Your House’s Style

Saturday, October 6th, 2012

I see it all the time. An agent that doesn’t specialize in historic homes lists a home for sale and calls it a Victorian when it is really something else. You would think that the “year built” would give it away, but most real estate agents have no clue that historic home styles were built in certain time frames. Agents look at decorative trim on a house and think it is a Victorian, but what they don’t realize is that the home did not originally have that trim, but was instead added by a later owner. Needless to say, this drives me crazy, and is one of the reasons I educate sellers on the need to have a historic home specialist market their home.

 What is it? Victorian? Greek Revival? Colonial?

Knowing the historic architecture of your home can also teach you what is and isn’t original to the home. Over the years, I have been a detective for homes that have been renovated, trying to find out for example what a room was originally used for, or where a door/window used to be. Finding “shadows” (as I call them), on exterior or interior walls can tell you what the trim might have looked like, and knowing the historic style of your home will help in this endeavor. Figuring out the original floor plan will be an easier task if you know the home was built as a Greek Revival, and not a Colonial Revival.

From my perspective, if an agent can’t properly describe the style of your home, you might think twice about hiring them.

Help for the Historic Home Owner

Friday, June 29th, 2012

Posted with Permission of Preservation Alliance of Minnesota
By – Erin Hanafin Berg, PAM Field Representative

My heart always sinks a little when I receive a message like this one, from Jenny in Duluth:

I am wondering if there are any programs, funding or loan options for purchasing a home that needs restoration. The home is not on the historic registry, but it is a beautiful brick house built in 1913 that needs extensive repairs.  The house is in foreclosure, and I am would like to learn about any programs that might exist to help me restore it as my primary residence.

Unfortunately, there are very few preservation programs available in Minnesota to help residential property owners. The new state rehabilitation tax credit is only available for income-producing properties that are listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Grants, like the Minnesota Historical and Cultural Grants, typically can only be used by non-profit organizations or municipal entities. Minnesota had a property tax exemption program, called This Old House, that allowed homeowners to freeze their local property taxes at the pre-renovation value for up to fifteen years,  but the program ended in 2003 and the legislature has seemed reluctant to reauthorize it. We lag behind our neighbors in Wisconsin, where a 25% income tax credit is available for historic homeowners; reportedly, more than 16,000 historic houses might qualify. In terms of historic preservation funding, Minnesota homeowners come up short.

But other funding-assistance programs out there can help, and many people don’t know to turn first to their local housing agencies. Many Community Development Corporations (CDCs) have residential housing improvements and neighborhood stability as the core of their missions, and may have loans, grants, or other financial resources available. In Duluth, for example, Neighborhood Housing Services is the local lending partner that provides access to the Minnesota Housing Finance Agency’s Fix-Up Funds. Oftentimes income qualifications apply, but this doesn’t mean that a household has to be near the poverty line to be eligible—the guidelines are often set as a percentage of the area’s median household income. (You might be surprised to learn what qualifies as “low-income” in your community.)

Rebates for energy-efficient appliance upgrades (furnace, refrigerator, water heater, etc.) are often available through the local utility company or community-based energy agency. In Duluth, the local utility is Minnesota Power, which has an extensive list of rebates. DEEP – Duluth Energy Efficiency Program – offers up to $2,500 in rebates for all income levels. Weatherization assistance for low-income residents is available across the state, accessed through local partners like the Arrowhead Economic Opportunity Agency in Duluth. (If you plan to undertake weatherization improvements, be sure to read our information on window rehabilitation before you assume that your windows need replacing!)

There are also some special HUD-financed rehab loans available through mortgage companies and banks. According to HUD, “The borrower can get just one mortgage loan, at a long-term fixed (or adjustable) rate, to finance both the acquisition and the rehabilitation of the property” (as opposed to a first mortgage, which would finance the purchase of the property pre-renovation, and then higher-rate construction loans to fund the rehab work). Also, there are still  programs through Minnesota Housing to assist first-time homebuyers, or buyers who have not owned a home within the past three years. MHFA’s CASA program includes a “purchase and repair” option, but it is only available in targeted areas and both income limits and purchase price limits apply.

Financial assistance is available for rehabilitating an older home, but you need to know where to look. Hopefully this gives Jenny, and others like her, a place to start.

Historic Homes of Minnesota is Looking for the Best Decorated Halloween Historic House

Sunday, October 11th, 2009

Do you have a historic home in Minnesota that you love to decorate for Halloween?

This year I am introducing the 1st Annual Historic Home Halloween Contest. Send me an exterior photo of your home of how you decorate for Halloween, and I will pick a winner and post your fantastic historic Halloween home here on my blog. Please send your photos to by October 28th, and I will post a winner on October 30th. Now don’t be shy, I want to see alot of entries, day or night, which ever you think is better!

Finding Your Home’s History

Wednesday, August 12th, 2009

One of the things I love about living in Minnesota is the preservation of local history. It has been going on here for over 150 years and a wealth of information is available to those seeking to learn a little bit more about their home. Here are some ideas for your detective work:

  • Look at your home’s abstract and figure out the timeline for your home’s previous owners
  • Visit your city/county records office and find the original building permit. Many time this will list the builder/architect/year built/cost of construction/home owner.
  • Speak with the State Historic Preservation Office – they have information on properties surveyed for historic designation and those nominated to the National Register of Historic Places
  • Visit any local Historical Societies near your home to gain further knowledge and maybe find some cataloged information about the home or home owner
  • If you live in Minneapolis, Saint Paul, and some other larger towns in Minnesota, the Sanborn Insurance Maps (1880-1960s) have structural footprints of buildings and other detailed information. Some other maps to look at are the Rascher Fire Insurance Maps, which cover St. Paul, Minneapolis, and Duluth, and the Fire Underwriters Bureau Maps.
  • Check out the Minnesota Historical Society photo database and see if there is an old photo of your home.
  • Look through the Dual Cities Blue Book, a city directory of owners and occupants. Some even feature reverse address indexes.
  • The Northwest Architectural Archives have house plans, books, architect information, etc available for you to look through.

Becoming a detective can be a daunting task and cannot be done overnight, unless you already have tons of info from previous owner. But if you check into some of these resources, the history of your home can come to light. Do note however, that there will be many instances where the history has been lost, so don’t get discouraged. Happy researching!


Thursday, May 21st, 2009

A recent incident that is now recurring is forcing me to write this post about copyright of photos used on this site. (Notice the “Do not Copy” notice on the leftside of this blog.) To some people, it is ok to go onto the Internet and lift photos of other peoples work. They then use these photos on their websites without permission. They either do not care or don’t know the law, but either way, what they are doing is stealing….oh, and Copyright infringement.

As a visitor to this blog, I am sure you can easily see that I travel around the area taking photos of historic homes, then post them to my blog with a story about the home. It’s what I do, and the whole reason for this blog, which is to educate locals and others about the great historic resource we have in Minnesota through our homes and buildings. Taking these photos takes time, energy, patience, and creative thought.

What many people fail to realize is that even though the Internet is public domain, the content is not free for all to use. The general rule of thumb (in this instance) is that once a photo hits a hard drive, it is considered copywritten. The photo does not have to have a copyright notice on the photo, nor a big C. In order to use a photo, one must obtain permission from the source. So for those people out there that “right click and save” and then use the photo, you are committing copyright infringement.

Any excuse you give does not matter. Taking something created by another without permission is wrong.

I could go into greater detail, but I don’t want to clutter up my nice blog with a post such as this. I just want you to know, that I work hard to write this blog, so please do not steal my stuff. Simple as that.

If you want to learn more about Copyright law as it pertains to blogs and websites, please visit a great lady’s blog regarding copyright law, Lenn Harley, for in depth articles on the subject.