Posts Tagged ‘preserved’

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.