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22Mar/11Off

Weekend Walk

It was in the 50s in MN last weekend!  That might sound cold to you, but just remember that's about 70 degrees warmer than it was 3 months ago here!  To some Minnesotans, this is shorts weather!  To us, it's 'time to get out and walk' weather.  We actually went for short weekly walks all winter (even on the coldest weeks) but we found it much nicer to go for a walk without snow pants and hooded jackets, and to go further to a new destination.

After hearing about an interesting intersection from Bungalow 23, we even had a destination in mind.  On a particular corner near us the street was crumbling away and had exposed old granite pavers and street car rails!

It was crazy seeing our city's history up close.  It's hard to imagine what these streets would look like as brick roads with street cars running up and down them.  It's cool to think that this history is just a few inches below our cars.  On a side note, this intersection is super busy and we felt like we were going to die trying to get these pictures!

Another highlight of our walk was this house:

We were amazed at how many mature trees it has in it's yard!  It's a double lot with trees that are a lot older than you usually find in this part of Minneapolis.  We also have a soft spot for brick houses... we had a little house envy!

Did you find yourself in beautiful weather this weekend?  We hope you too are taking in every detail as spring slowly (slowly, slowly, slowly) unveils herself this year!

P.S.  There's snow in the forecast for this evening. :(

Filed under: House History 4 Comments
4Jan/11Off

Faces from the past

Living in a 90-year-old house gives you a real sense of history.  Curious little lines in the plaster from past renovations and questions of "Why did they do that?" or "What did this used to look like?" seem to creep around every corner.  I often wonder what people 30 years down the road will think about the changes we're making.  It's hard to believe the original owners have long since passed away and future owners haven't been born.  The house really does stand the test of time while owners come and go.  If you look close enough you can almost see their faces fossilized in the walls. 

Last week Katrina and I decided to head to the Minneapolis Service Center and do some research on the history of our house.  We found all sorts of interesting documents showing when permits were pulled, how much the original structure cost, and even a surprise about the original intentions for our lot.  As neat as it was to learn new facts about our house, the sense that there are real stories from the past, real people calling our house their home, was exhilarating.  We had fun imagining what life was like for past owners.  From our musings we've put together some possible stories.  They're mostly based on facts we learned about our house and historical context we know to be true but we've had to guess at some of the details.  These are our houses stories.

September 17, 1912

Minneapolis Municipal Building where Jas worked.

Jas Houghton listened to the comfortable creek of his desk chair as he sat down to another morning of work.  The pile of permit applications seemed to tower over the stack of permits he had already approved.  It was going to be a long day if he didn't allow his mind to wander to pass the time.  He flipped an application from the top of the pile and studied it.

H. S. Galchutt to build a corner store and dwelling 4 miles south of downtown.  Jas knew the area well.  A farmer has been holding out on his land for years but the price must have finally be right.  The city had just connected an east-west road next to the land and aught to be connecting south in the next few years.  They're building an elementary school down there but it's out side the fire limits and the trolley doesn't even head that far out of town.  Keeping a store in business would be a lot of work but it wasn't up to Jas to make business decisions for the owners, just approve or deny their permits.  "To be completed by 12/1/1912" Jas read to himself, "It's already September, you better get working if you're just using day labor.  And I better get working so you can get started."  With the flick of a pen Jas was the final sign off on the permit.  He laid it in his out box, glanced out the window, and reached for the next permit off his approval pile.

May 6, 1920

Minneapolis 1920 - not our house or neighborhood.
from flickr

Emil Swanson couldn't get his head out of the clouds as he looked across the intersection at the empty lot.  Construction starts tomorrow on his house.  "My house" he told himself once again, hoping it would sink in.  A warm breeze almost knocked him out off his clouds and onto the ground.  The warmth felt good this time of year and the pinks and yellows of spring were starting to bud, much like how the houses had been popping up on these blocks for the past 10 years.  The corner was the last lot on the block to be sold.  "Or at least to be built on," Emil reminded himself still a little confused that someone had bought the land nearly 10 years ago and left it as-is.  Supposedly there was talk of building a store but plans were canceled just a week after they were approved.  It wasn't that uncommon for lots to be left without a building, especially during the World War which Emil himself had only recently returned from.

"My house." He said once again, but it still wasn't working.  Emil still couldn't believe how things had changed in the past few years - the move from Michigan, school at the University of Minnesota and how well business with his brother had been going.  Not that it came down to luck; just the opposite, Emil and his brother Herbert has worked themselves raw to grow the business.  Now, at the age of 31, Emil was starting to see the benefits.  Now was no time to sit back and feel good about himself, though.  It would be a hard summer of making sure the house was on track, finding day labor, and scheduling plumbing and electric.  The whole project would cost almost $5000, a small fortune!  "But it will be worth it" Emil thought aloud as he let himself stare back across the street and get lost in his own thoughts for just a little while longer.

Source of information on Emil:
http://files.usgwarchives.net/mn/hennepin/bios/1923/swanhseo.txt

The Building Card we found:

January 14, 1934

Minneapolis 1934.  Leaders of a strike by truck drivers.
Source:LaborStandard.org

"It's going to be a cold week," thought Walter as he walked door-to-door on a frigid Minneapolis morning.  Walter wasn't one to complain though, after the banks crashed 5 years ago, he felt lucky to have work at all.  "Let's see... Stories: 2, Construction: frame-stucco, Year Built: 1920," he scribbled as fast as he could, half so he could get indoors and half because he knew he still had two more blocks to get done today.  "Condition of building: fair, condition of yard: fair."  Ok, lets see who's home.

Knock, knock, knock came the sound of Walter's leather gloves against the door.  "Good morning, my name is Walter Hagan, I'm with the City Planning Commission and we're conducting a Building and Housing Survey of every residence in the city.  May I ask you a few questions?"
"Oh, I suppose." answered the sturdy woman with a child's head peaking around her hip, "Why don't you step in, can I offer you a warm drink?"
"Thank you, but there's no need for that, Ma'am.  Is Mr. Nelson home?"
"Well, Mr. Nelson owns the house, but he doesn't live here.  We're renting from him."
"I see," replied Walter, "Is it just you and the child?  Or is there -"
"- and my husband, " she interrupted, "he's at work right now, you can stop back in the evening if you need to talk to him."
"That won't be necessary." said Walter with a warm smile.  "I just have a few more questions you aught to be able to answer.  I see you have radiators, do you burn coal or have you converted?"
"We burn coal."
"And I see you have electricity, do you use a refrigerator?"
"Yes!  The house came with one, aren't they great?"
"We just got one a few years ago ourselves."  Smiled Walter.  His smile melted a bit as he read the next question, "May I ask how much Mr. Nelson charges for rent?"
"$30 per month.  That's $2 less than where we lived last year."
"And finally, you said your husband works down the road, how does he get to work?"
"He drives our car."
"Great, and how many passenger cars do you own?"
"How many?  Well, just the one."
"Of course.  Well thank you ma'am, that completes my survey.  I do thank you for your time and I better be on my way." said Walker as he turned toward the door.
"You're welcome and good luck with the rest of your surveys."
With a nod Walter stepped back into the cold.
Two more blocks.

Info based on the 1934 Housing & Land Survey:

December 2010

We are so excited to be living here in this house and consider it ours for the time being.  But we also know that our life here, however long it may be, is short in the long history of the house.  We love knowing more of that history and have hopes of honoring the original character of the house as we learn more about it and the previous owners!

Filed under: House History 5 Comments