Archive for the ‘Summit Avenue’ Category

Summit Avenue Recognized as one of Best Streets in America

Thursday, October 16th, 2008

Recently the American Planning Association awarded Saint Paul as having one of the Best Streets in America. Summit Avenue, as us historic home lovers know quite well, is described as:

During the late 19th century, Summit Avenue was not considered the grandest of the country’s Victorian-era residential boulevards, yet today this 4.5-mile-long boulevard between downtown St. Paul, Minnesota, and the Mississippi River stands alone as the country’s best-preserved avenue from that period…”

Of course, we all ready know that Summit Avenue is grand and a true local treasure. But I think the Twin Cities in general is one of the best historic architectural archives in the nation. I get emails all the time from people across the country that have never seen homes like we have here…and it is so much fun showing them what makes our towns special!

Tudor Revival Mansion on Summit Avenue

Thursday, August 14th, 2008

This weeks Historic Home is 807 Summit Avenue.

Built in 1906 by Clarence Johnston for the Samuel Dittenhofer family, this home definitely stands out from the Victorian homes nearby. Jacob Dittenhofer built the home as a wedding gift for his son, Samuel, and his wife Madeline Lang.

The beautifully designed Tudor villa has a first floor exterior of brick and a second and third floor of stucco and half-timbering. It also has many gables, a feature typical in the Tudor style, with one “leg” of the east gable stretching down to the first floor. This feature seems to be popular on the Avenue as it is represented in about one third of the Tudor homes on Summit Avenue. It hasn’t changed at all over the years. View a photo of the home as it appeared in 1920.

According to one source, the Dittenhofers went off to Europe in 1936 and never returned. The home sat vacant until Madeline donated it to the Christian Brothers in 1966. In 1999, the home was sold for $825,000 and returned to its single family residential status. It has approximately 9100 square feet, 12 bedrooms, and seven bathrooms.

Grand Clarence Johnston Built Mansion on Summit Avenue

Wednesday, July 23rd, 2008
This weeks highlighted historic home is located at 476 Summit Avenue in St. Paul.

Built between 1883-1885, the home was designed by Clarence Johnston for Chauncey Griggs. As you can tell, it is surrounded by large trees, making it very difficult to get a good shot of the home. It is built in the Richardson Romanesque style, a very popular style at the time, at a cost of $35,000.

Returning to St. Paul after fighting in the Civil War, Griggs established a coal and lumber business with James J. Hill, then with R. W. Johnson, and finally with Addison G. Foster. His neighbor at 490 Summit Avenue, Mr. Foster, also had his home designed by Clarence Johnston.

Early photographs were taken of the home around 1888, and a very famous one from 1895 because of the children in the forefront, giving a good representation of period dress. The photos show the original look of the home, before some additions were made. The most notable change to the home is the removal of the front gable around 1940, being replaced by a huge skylight to give more light for its current owners, the St. Paul Gallery and School of Arts. The front porch that wrapped around the home has also been removed, making way for a ramp.

The current owners bought the home in 1982 and have been making many renovations to the home, bringing it back to its original splendor. You can imagine that over the years, many different types of interior design have graced the walls, so it is only understandable what a monumental task it is to restore the home. In 2004, the home was featured in the Summit Hill House Tour.

Some of the home features include “Grand hallways, twelve-foot ceilings on the first floor, majestic fireplaces, and a sweeping 26-foot high staircase… A unique carving of a cockfight adorns the fireplace in the music room and the dining room’s white marble mantle is decorated with a geometric serpentine inlay (a symbol of endless happiness) “.

One feature some may not like is the reported haunted house events. Seems the home is surrounded by stories at reported here.

Georgian Revival on Summit Avenue in Saint Paul

Wednesday, May 7th, 2008

This weeks showcase Historic Home is 260 Summit Avenue.

Built in 1902 by the famous Clarence Johnston, the home was designed for Louis W. Hill, the son of James J. Hill, who’s own large mansion was just a few houses down the street.

As you can see, it looks as if there are two homes in front of each other. The original house at the back with the gambrel roof was built in the Georgian Revival style in 1902. Needing more space, the front addition was added in 1912 giving four guest bedrooms and bathrooms on the first floor, and a grand ballroom on the second level. The front portico was saved and moved from the original spot to the front of the new addition. Combined together, the home has a total of about 25,000 finished square feet!

The home has had many uses over the last century. When Louis Hill died in 1948, the home was sold to the Roman Catholic educational guild, and then bought in 1961 by the Daughters of the Heart of Mary and used as a retreat. It went mostly untouched until 2001 when it was purchased by a local family and restored to its original splendor (at a purchase price of $1.7 Million). They currently use it as their primary residence and rent space out for special events.

Local history has F. Scott Fitzgerald attending a party here once. A costume ball held at the mansion even found its way into his story, “The Camel’s Back”.

Masonry Queen Anne on Summit Avenue

Thursday, February 21st, 2008
This weeks featured Historic Home in St Paul is 749 Summit Avenue.


Built in 1888 by the famous Clarence Johnston and in collaboration with William Willcox, the home was commissioned by The Wheeler Family and cost around $12,000 to build.

At first glance, you might think the home was built in the Richardson Romanesque style, mostly impart to the rough cut stone on the exterior walls. However it lacks any of the arches that define that style. Instead, it fits rightly into the a Queen Anne Victorian “masonry” category. The tower on the left has been built into the home and does not rise higher than the third story ridge line.
The home has been wonderfully restored to its former beauty. The wood work alone inside is something that could never be duplicated today without great cost to the home owner. At approximately 6500 square feet, the home has six bedroom, 5 baths, and a detached two-car garage.
This past June, the home sold for $1.475 Million. Hard to believe a home would sell for that much and not have air conditioning. But many of these old homes still do not have the luxury as the cost to install, without disrupting the historical integrity of the home, is extremely high.

Italian Beaux Arts Mansion in Saint Paul

Friday, February 8th, 2008
This weeks showcase Historic Home is 340 Summit Avenue.

Built in 1894 by Thomas Scott, this beautiful mansion was designed by Allen Stem at a cost of $40,000. Constructed out of local limestone, the house is a great example of the Italian Beaux Arts Style that was popular in St Paul at the end of the century. The decorative garland at the roof line is one of the dead give aways, as well as the symmetrical facade, flat roof, and smooth masonry stone exterior.

This grand home on Summit overlooks St Paul and the Mississippi River and has a wonderful panoramic view. The area where the old carriage house use to stand is still there. Built as a single family home, it was converted to eight apartments around 1950. The current owners bought the home in 2005 for $1.45 Million, desiring to return it to its previous single family grandeur, and have completed some major updates, including turning the front salon in to a living room and kitchen. When these homes were first built, the kitchens were located in the basements, where servants prepared the meals. Food was delivered via dumb waiter to a butler’s pantry next to the dining room. It was believed that the smell of food cooking would be unpleasant to visiting guests.

When you enter the home you are greeted to black and white marble tiles and a gorgeous marble staircase. Kids would have a wonderful time playing hide & seek as there are multiple stairways all the way from the basement to the third floor. A mirrored ballroom takes up the third floor, with bedrooms that were originally for the housemaids. It is truly a beautiful home that takes the breath away.

Historic Queen Anne Gets Face Lift in Saint Paul

Monday, January 21st, 2008

This weeks Historic Home in St Paul is 353 Summit Avenue.

Built in 1882 for William Dean, the home “only” cost $15,000 to build. Mr. Dean was a partner for the local wholesale hardware firm, Nicols, Dean, and Gregg, and also sat on the Great Northern Railroad board of directors. Little is known about the architect. A photo exists of the home taken in 1895. Designed as a Queen Anne Victorian, it is a great example of half-timbering.

Around 1900, the home was altered beyond recognition of its original Queen Anne style. Below is a photo of what the home had looked like up until 2005.

As you can see, it looks nothing like the beautiful Queen Anne of 1882. The front gable and chimneys are the only remaining pieces visual to the eye that haven’t changed. In 2005, a very expensive renovation was begun, with the owners wanting to bring back the facade of the original home. After a complete inside/outside renovation of the main house, and an exterior renovation of the carriage house, the home recently sold for $1.7 Million with Edina Realty, and photos of the home are still available via a virtual tour. The home has over 7000 square feet, 6 bedrooms, 7 bathrooms, and for one simple word, is stunning.

Summit Avenue Historic Mansion, St Paul

Thursday, December 27th, 2007

This weeks historic home is 323 Summit Avenue in Saint Paul, Minnesota.

Built in 1892 at a cost of $35,000, this home was built for Edward Nelson Saunders by the famous Clarence Johnston. The Minnesota Historical Society has a sketch of the home in their archives done by the architect, as well as photos of the home in 1898 and 1973. A previous home stood on the site in 1863 but I wasn’t able to find a photograph of it to post.

The home is a classic example of the Richardson Romanesque style to popular with the architect. It is actually one of my favorite homes on Summit, but it is in desperate need of repair. There are some fantastic details in the porch columns and their ornate capitals, as well as a beautiful stone railing on the third level of the front facade.

I am not one hundred percent sure but I think the home is currently a residential residence. At one time it was used as the Cathedral Convent.

Summit Avenue Historic Home in Saint Paul

Friday, November 30th, 2007

This weeks showcase home is 251 Summit Avenue.

Known as the Horace Rugg residence, this was built in 1887 by Allen Stem for a cost of $24,500. Originally built as a single family residence, the home has seen many owners. In the 70’s the home was occupied by the Catholic Education Center, with the late 1990’s seeing the home converted to three condominium units. The estimated value of the building/units is well over $1 Million.

The home is an excellent example of Richardson Romanesque style, dominated by the masonry walls built of rough-faced, squared stonework, arched doorways and windows, and a tower. Most homes built in this style feature the red tinted stone show here and have decorative panels. This home has beautiful carved panels in the entrance arch of classic nudes and scroll work. The tower is on the side and is built into the home. If you get a chance to walk by this home, you will see it is grand feat of architectural design. I have not seen the inside, but it is said to have a variety of different wood species, including cherry, oak, and sycamore.

Updating the Stories I Tell for St Paul Historic Homes

Monday, November 19th, 2007

Minneapolis and St Paul have thousands of historic homes. As a real estate agent who’s speciality is marketing historic homes, I jump at the chance to explore any of the old houses. My readers know that I write a showcase piece for one historic home a week, trying to give as much information I can about the house and it’s history. Sometimes, though, the history changes and updates occur. I love nothing more than to hear a historic home is being renovated back to it’s original splendor.

Well, a couple weeks ago I received an email from the new owner of 295 Summit Avenue, a home I showcased back in January. She happened upon my blog and saw my article about the history of this home, and wanted to update me on what is going on. As I reported in January, the home was in the process of being converted into condo units. Thankfully, she was able to purchase the home and stop that process, and instead, opting to bring the home back to single family. I was invited over to tour the home, and see for myself all the wonderful renovations occurring. Yes, it was like a kid entering a candy store, filled with “ohs” and “ahs”.

Pictured above, it is easy to tell that the exterior looks much better than in January. The porch renovation has been finished, and the owner plans on fixing the porch flooring tile, which has winter heaved at some point, causing damage. The entry foyer is astounding, completely covered in paneling, and the two parlors, central stairway, and hallway have beautiful wood paneling and carvings made of oak, cherry, maple, and more. Once everything is stained/painted, the woodwork will be stunning.

The original wood floors are still present, most likely preserved by the thick carpet that the Society of Friends installed 30-some years ago when they owned the property. While most of the original fixtures are missing, a few have been saved and converted from gas to electric. One feature that is prevalent with mansions on Summit is the enormous third story attic. The new owner put that as her top priority and has completely transformed this area into a beautiful penthouse. It is currently for sale at a list price of $767,700 with Coldwell Banker Burnet. Check out the fun turret area via a virtual tour.

It will most likely take at least a year for the owner to complete the renovation. When it is, I cannot wait for another tour. As a renovator of historic homes myself, I know the aggravation and final joy that a project of this magnitude will bring. As an agent with personal experience in the area, I know the benefit this home is bringing to the neighborhood with its new historic completion.

If you have a historic home that I have showcased, and have additional information that will benefit the post, or see some incorrect information, please do not hesitate to contact me. While some people might not want to offend by pointing out a mistake, I would rather know the real story. I cannot keep up with changes unless you let me know.

If you would like to have your home showcased on my blog, I would love to talk with you and tour your home. Historic homes are my passion and I love to keep their history alive by writing about them for the public to enjoy.