Archive for the ‘National Registry’ Category

William Sauntry Mansion

Sunday, June 2nd, 2019
626 4th Street North, Stillwater

This beautiful Queen Anne historic home in Stillwater was built in 1881 by William Sauntry, a local Stillwater lumber baron. The Recreation Hall sitting directly behind the mansion was built in 1902 in the Moorish style (now a separate residence) and was designed after Alhambra Palace in Spain. Both buildings are on the National Registry of Historic Places.

House and Recreation Hall circa 1906

Sauntry was christened in Ireland in 1845, the youngest of eight children, to a poor Catholic farm family. When his father died in 1848, the family was most likely suffering greatly due to the Great Potato Famine that lasted from 1845-1849. His mother immigrated the entire family to New Brunswick, Canada, and sometime in the mid 1850’s they immigrated again to America. It was in Stillwater that he learned the lumber business working as a young lumberjack and river driver.

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 first cousin 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. He was 69 years old.

It is estimated at the time of his greatest wealth, he was worth $2 Million. In today’s dollars that is equivalent to $53 Million!



The home now operates as a successful bed and breakfast and is For Sale

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 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 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 Schneider Tavern in Frontenac

Saturday, September 16th, 2017

The Schneider Tavern at 28971 Wood Avenue, Frontenac, MN

28971 Wood Avenue, Frontenac

Built in 1862 by Engelbert Haller and Kasper Koch, this lovely Greek Revival building was originally built to operate as a general store and served as the township’s stagecoach stop; however, two years after completion it was sold to Jacob Schneider who used it as a tavern and hotel. The tavern and store were located on the main floor (now the living room and office), with simple accommodations to rent upstairs. A separate entrance on the side of the home was used so guests could access the rented rooms and store without passing through the tavern, and is the reason why the main staircase is located behind the front rooms and not at the front of the home (like residential homes of the era). The Schneider Tavern was in operation until 1887 when it was sold to the son of Evert Westervelt.

Evert Westervelt arrived to the area from Pennsylvania in 1852 and is the founder of the small town of Frontenac, originally named Westervelt. Having opened a local limestone quarry of dolomite shortly after his arrival (which supplied all the local limestone foundations, walls, and tombstones), he purchased a total of 320 acres of land as the site of his new town and began the process of plotting streets and lots to sell to future settlers. In 1859, the town was renamed Frontenac in honor of Louis de Buade de Frontenac, governor general of Canada between 1670-1698. (Minnesota did not become a state until 1858).

The home stayed in the Westervelt family until it was purchased in 1982 by a couple who began the restoration process and opened the home as a bed and breakfast. In 1999, the current owner purchased the home, and over a decade, restored and updated the home further, including the restoration of the front porch. Using old photos, the owner was able to recreate the original design and trim detail.

Photo of the home pre-bay window on the side of the home.

Old photos of historic homes are extremely useful for restoration efforts and determining what architectural elements were original or added in later decades. For instance, the Schneider Tavern, was not originally built with a bay window on the southern side of the home, to the left of the porch. It was added later, sometime after 1891, when Westervelt purchased the home and used it as a private residence (we can surmise that the above photo was taken after 1891 simply because that was the year the American company of Anchor Post and Fence bought the patent rights to the chain link fence from a United Kingdom company and began production in the United States). From what I have read in a book about Frontenac, there is a question on whether the Moorish attic windows were added later, but looking at old photos and the design of the home, it appears they are original to the structure. Other questions have been asked about the decorative gable trim (if it was added by more recent owners), but again, old photos show the gable trim and porch brackets date to at least pre-1887.

Schneider Tavern pre-rear porch enclosure, but after bay window addition

This home is currently “pending” for sale. Additional information, photos, and an interactive 3-D tour can be viewed at the property website.

 

Original limestone horse hitching post that was quarried from Westervelt's local limestone quarry.
Original limestone stagecoach steps that were quarried from Westervelt's local limestone quarry.
An original small horse barn on the property
Up close photo of the Moorish attic windows and decorative gable trim.

The Vasa Children’s Home

Friday, June 2nd, 2017

Vasa Children's Home

15251 Old Childrens Home Road, Vasa Township, MN

When Hans Mattson immigrated from Sweden and founded “Mattson’s Settement” in 1853, along with other Swedish farmers, little did he know how his small town would hold so much hope for others. (He himself would become the Minnesota Secretary of State, serve in the Civil War, and become the United States Consul General of India). A decade later, after Reverend Eric Norelius founded the local Lutheran church, the true calling of the town began to unfold with the creation of what would become the first private children’s home in Minnesota.

In 1865 Reverend Norelius learned of four children in St. Paul, recently immigrated from Sweden, that were orphaned and in need of care. Norelius brought them to Vasa and housed them in the basement of the Lutheran church. Not being adequate for long term living, he was able to purchase 10 acres of land a few years later near the church, and in 1869, built a small house for the children. This was the first of four homes to be used for orphans on the present day land. In 1876, a second larger house was built, but it was destroyed by a tornado in 1879. The third home, built with-in the year, was destroyed by fire in 1899 when a young child was playing with matches in a clothes closet. The Neo-classical styled home seen today was built in 1899, soon after the fire, and is the final remaining home built on this location. It ceased being a children’s home when a new facility was built outside of Red Wing in 1926, but through it’s years has witnessed and cared for hundreds of children.

The Original School House

The home sat vacant for nearly 40 years, until a couple bought the home in 1968 and began restoring the property. It currently is comprised of 2 parcels totaling 34 acres of woods, pasture, and tillable land. Further improvements have been made by subsequent owners since then, including the grounds, expansive gardens, the addition of a guest house, and more. Today, this historic home stands as a testament to the hard work of many to preserve it for future generations. A few other structures that still stand and are original to the property include a small school house, barn and silo, and caretaker’s cottage. There are several building ruins on the site, too.

Barn and Silo

One of the original barns and silo still standing.

The home was placed on the National Registry of Historic Places, along with the Vasa Township Historic District, in 1975.

It is currently For Sale with more photos and a 3-D interactive tour at the Property Website.

The second children's home built on site.
Second Children's Home destroyed by tornado in 1879.
Fourth children's home, circa 1900.
Fourth children's home showing an additional building, circa 1900
Photo of fourth home circa 1907 with school house in back of photo.
Fourth home with children, windmill can be seen in back of photo.

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"