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Grandma's Historic House

Posted on June 12, 2009 by Holly Hayes
Part of: Old West Road Trip

We arrived at Grandma's house in St. Paul on Wednesday, May 13, after an easy drive across southern Minnesota from Fargo.

minnesota lake One of Minnesota's 10,000 lakes, getting a bit out of control at a highway rest area.

We stayed with Grandma for a week and had a really great time. We saw a bit of historic St. Paul, shopped at the Mall of the America, visited some relatives, toured Grandma's beautiful property in Wisconsin, and just enjoyed Grandma's company sitting around the kitchen table.

For those of you don't know her, my Grandma Bette is 84 going on 24, full of energy and good humor, and spends pretty much all her time doing things for other people. I am her only grandchild, so she has also spoiled me good ever since I was born. I hadn't seen her she came out to Oregon almost four years ago, so it was great to see her again.

And it had been a really long time since I'd visited Grandma's house in Minnesota - over a decade - so it was quite a blast from the past. It looks just the same! As far as I know it's not on the National Register but it is quite a historic place - it was built in 1902 and is the only one on the street that hasn't been bulldozed to make room for various businesses.

Grandma said it was designed by Cass Gilbert, the architect who designed the Minnesota State Capitol (1895-1905). Impressive. But she and Grandpa always thought the roof was weird; Grandpa would tell visitors that the architect must have been drunk when he drew up that part.

The house was built for a Frenchman who arrived in 1900 and bought a bunch of land in that area when there was nothing else there. He met a local girl, got married, and built the house for his new family in 1902.

Now there's an auto body shop on one side, the body shop's parking lot on the other, and a gas station across the street. Grandma has made friends with the owners of the body shop and is quite serene about the fact that they will buy the lot and replace the house with pavement as soon as she vacates. I understand the practicality of it, but it makes me sad.

IMG_0495 The roof is pretty unusual - never noticed before!

grandma's house Front

sitting room Sitting room

stairway Grand stairway

bathroom with antique tub Upstairs bathroom with antique tub - there's no shower in the house!

Grandma's house is old and grand enough to be a museum, yet very homey and welcoming. Well, except for the guard cat, Tiger, who wasn't so sure about the intruders in the house and let us know it with lots of hisses. Tiger is one of the biggest cats we've ever seen and is awfully cute. She got used to us eventually and provided a lot of entertainment during our stay.

IMG_2950r IMG_2990p IMG_2929

On our way home from another relative's house during our stay, we stopped at the cemetery where my grandfather is buried, which Grandma had pointed out on the way. Grandpa died when I was 9, but I remember him well. His name was Norm and was a German immigrant (whereas Grandma is second-generation German). I noticed most of the names in the cemetery were German - lots of 'em in Minnesota.

IMG_0746 The graveyard is quite beautiful and peaceful. Grandma, cheerful as always, joked about the ancient birthdate under her name on the tombstone next to Norm's and set about picking up branches, explaining that she'll plant some flowers at the grave once the ground is out of danger of freezing.

Sorry to end the post with a cemetery, but actually we had a really fun time there!

Next time: explorations of Minnesota and Wisconsin.