Sunday, October 20, 2013

Old Church (?) or Schoolhouse (?) Scandia, MN

In mid-September this year we had intended to be staying in a cabin for the weekend at William O'Brien State Park along the St. Croix River. We'd made reservations about a month prior and so we packed up the car with everything but a tent. When we arrived we were told that we were in campsite #14 instead of a cabin! So our plans were completely thrown upside-down. So we decided to hike all day in the park and just head home at the end of the day. On the way back, I spotted a "native landscape" type of nursery that I wanted to visit and so we pulled off the road into the town of Scandia. I've driven past/through this town many times but had never stopped to see the original part of town. It was small as expected, with the essential small-town post office nestled between other business on the main street. But there was a building across from the post office that caught our attention immediately. A very large wooden building painted a drab green with rusty brown trim. At first glance, the structure looked like a pair of simple, one-and-a-half story houses from the turn of the century that had crashed into each other. But from the back half rose a square type of "bell-tower" structure at one end. This part was sided in wood like the rest and at the top supported a pedestal with more vertical bracing that looked like it could have held either a cross or maybe a bell. I instantly thought of the building as an old abandoned Church, but I couldn't rule out a schoolhouse either. If it had been either in a previous life, it appeared that the way the building faced –assuming the tower would be in front– was no longer in line with the rest of the town. With the tower portion being towards the back left it faced an adjacent house only 50 feet away. The other thing that made me feel this building had been re-purposed at least once was that it had two large garage doors nearest the main street. I couldn't tell for sure but I think they were the type that slid horizontally left and right along a rail. Above these two doors was a smaller "loft" door or window hinged with old metal brackets. But above that door were signs of an even older loft door much higher up near the peak of the roof that was sided over to match the rest of the building. Curiously there was a little hand-painted sign that read "Hilltop Water Co." hung smack dab between the two loft doors. Something I noticed later while viewing my photos was that to the right of the current loft door was a rectangular area where it was apparent that another sign may have hung for many years. That small area –less faded and chipped– hinted to the deeper green coloring the building may have appeared years ago. Due to fencing, I could really only walk around 2 sides of the building but it was in a beautiful state of disrepair, with siding and shingles literally falling off near the edges. It was raining at the time and I wondered how well the roof was still keeping out water. Admittedly, I don't do a lot of research on any of the buildings I post here on my blog and same goes for this one. I simply like how they look in their current form –with so much history peeling away in front of your very eyes. The mystery of that unknown history is part of the appeal for me and thus I don't necessarily go out of my way to track it down for myself. But if blog viewers care to comment and share what they know about the place, I certainly don't mind. In fact I enjoy that very much.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Old Brick Houses North Minneapolis - Jan 2006

I'd driven past these two old brick houses in North Minneapolis at least 50 times, all the while thinking I really should take a photo of them. They were the kind of narrow, tall and simple box-shaped houses that you just don't see anymore -at least not in Minneapolis. The pair of homes -only just feet apart from one another both appeared to have built around the same time, of the same yellowed brick and having very similar construction -especially those old, tall windows with the arched top -something you'd be hard pressed to find nowadays even if you were looking for it. These houses resided on 2nd St. North right near the intersection of 2nd & Lowry, leading up to the old Lowry Avenue Bridge. In fact if you click on the photos to enlarge them you may be able to see the green metal top of the old Lowry Avenue Bridge. Whenever my wife and I would pass these houses our conversation would turn to wondering if anybody -or who- lived in those houses. At the time it DID look like at least one of them was occupied even though many of the windows were already boarded up. I don't remember which one we thought might have been occupied but I'm thinking it was the one on the right -with slightly less windows boarded up. The age of the houses was obvious in a lot of ways -from the weathered and cracked brickwork to the deteriorating and surely leaking roofs but mostly to the added electrical utilities that didn't seem to be part of the home's original plans. In January of 2006 we began to notice some activity around the houses including an orange construction fence in front. I figured I'd better stop and catch at least one photo of these houses so on a cold January day in 2006 we did just that. It was clear the homes were about to be demolished and it was sort of a neat feeling that we may well be the last people to be admiring them, daydreaming of the history that happened inside and outside of them. Both houses had been added onto at the rear, almost doubling the depth of each, making me wonder if they had been used for another purpose other than a simple family home. During our stop I finally capture the address of one of the two houses still above the front door -3210. Shortly after I looked up this address on the Hennepin County Property Tax web site and was not too surprised to see the last sale-price was for an astounding low rate. I don't remember exactly but I think it was somewhere shy of $10,000. Unfortunately I didn't keep those records. In fact, at the time of shooting these photos I didn't even have the faintest thought of what I would do with the photos -much less creating a blog someday. I don't remember but it wasn't very long after we stopped that both houses were totally gone - a testament to why it's almost always worth stopping to admire and/or photograph an old structure before it is gone. If you do a google map search on the address today you will see there is just an empty field.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

The Castle - Ely, MN

My apologies for such a long interval between updates. I'm finding it hard to regularly update 2 blogs -though this one gets many more views and comments! I have a stockpile of stuff to add, so if you can stand the wait please check back periodically. This post shows some photos of one of the most interesting buildings I've seen in the past few years. On a trip to Ely, Minnesota last fall we couldn't help but run into this massive, castle-looking building at on the corner of Camp St. and 2nd Avenue. The 4 & 1/2 story turret is hard to miss as you're driving up the hillside just 1 or 2 blocks of the main street. The yellowed and ornate brickwork immediately tell you something of it's age but it's impressive architecture is not like anything you typically see in Minnesota. This place is truly a "castle" with multiple dormers and bay windows making up complex shapes especially along it's roof line. Though there must have been nearly 30 windows on the one side, we couldn't see one that was not broken out or boarded up. As I took pictures in awe, I noticed the roof seemed in fairly decent shape and likely redone recently. Also some of the protruding window sections and also the top level of the turret had been resurfaced in a "stucco" like method. There were for-sale signs on the long side -and even they were busted up, telling me that the place has likely been for sale for a long time already. Upon driving around to the back side, we could see a bit more restoration had been started, including white paint over the yellow bricks. Upon returning home and looking the place up online, I found it had been built in 1903 to serve as a Hospital. I would have loved to walk around inside and/or seen pictures of what it used to look like inside. The building is listed on the National Registry of Historic Places and it is easy to see why even without knowing much more about it. If you'd like to own it, just visit this website!