Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

A look at Christmas past & more inside the Alexander Faribault house December 5, 2017

 

FROM THE EXTERIOR, the simple wood-frame house set atop a hill along Minnesota State Highway 60 in Faribault could pass as just another old house. A porch fronts the house where green shutters flank windows. Nothing remarkable makes this place stand out—except the sign out front.

 

 

Pause to read that marker and you’ll learn this house was home to town founder Alexander Faribault from its construction in 1853 to 1856 when Faribault and his wife, Mary Elizabeth, and their children moved east across town.

 

“We send you all our best Respects…your truly friends Alex Faribault”

 

On a window sill in the dining room.

 

The parlor.

 

Every December the Rice County Historical Society hosts a weekend Christmas Open House in the building that once served as a home, post office, church, school, hotel, meeting place, store and community center. That annual affair adds an elegant flair in the style of French-Canadian holiday traditions. Alexander Faribault’s father, Jeane-Baptiste, was French-Canadian, his mother a Dakota. Like his father before him, Alexander was a fur trader.

 

 

 

While touring the home Saturday afternoon, I noted how a finely set dining table layered with a crocheted tablecloth and centered by a candied apple centerpiece brought such elegance to this aged home with planked wood floors. In the simplest of surroundings, layers of plates, fine silver and goblets presented a festive and impressive setting.

 

 

 

 

 

Holiday décor aside, the authenticity of everyday life in the 1850s remains. Here, straw pokes through bedding. Handmade quilts drape trunk and beds. Kerosene lanterns punctuate furniture. Vintage portraits hang on walls. Horsehair cushions soften chairs.

 

An embroidered linen draped in an upstairs bedroom.

 

 

 

It is humbling to walk through this house, to consider the history made here in meetings, in discussions, in entertaining, in living within these walls as a family.

 

 

 

My community began here, in this spot along the Straight River, in this house built by a fur trader. Though unremarkable in outward appearance, this house holds the essence of a town that grew from humble beginnings into a thriving city that still values its French heritage.

 

BONUS PHOTOS:

The second floor showcases additional Faribault history including that of local businesses like the Brand Peony Farm…

 

…and these chairs crafted by Peterson’s Art Furniture Co.

 

© Copyright 2017 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

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In Northfield: Lovely gingerbread house and gardens July 21, 2014

OH, FOR THE SWEETNESS of this butter-colored 1879 gingerbread house.

Derrin and Paul O'Connells' Northfield home, built in 1879.

Derrin and Paul O’Connells’ Northfield home, built in 1879.

Arched windows and roof-line architectural detail. And that porch, oh, that porch—a cozy place to read or simply relax on a summer day. Pure white Adirondack chairs are positioned at a front corner of the house as an invitation to sit a spell and perhaps observe passersby or a game of croquet. And then a corner picket fence adds the perfect accent to this period home.

An inviting spot, complete with trellis, to sit a spell next to the garage.

An inviting spot, complete with trellis, to sit a spell next to the garage.

Derrin and Paul O’Connell are only the third owners of this 135-year-old house located by Central Park in Northfield. And, recently, their property was among six showcased in the Northfield Garden Club 2014 Garden Tour. Not the house specifically, but the yard and gardens, although my attention was focused as much on the historic house as the plants. I love old homes with character.

Latticework accents a corner garden pergola.

Latticework accents a corner garden pergola.

The O’Connells have done a fine job of complementing their home’s style with garden rooms that call for lingering under a pergola or settling onto a bench next to a trellis.

Windowbox charm complements the historic home.

Windowbox charm complements the historic home.

Window boxes hold pink geraniums, hardy English ivy and airy Diamond Frost. Spruce trees, more than 100 years old, grace the yard.

And just off a sprawling 1980s enclosed porch addition that blends so seamlessly with the house in architectural style and detail that you would think it original, a swath of wide deck steps extend a warm visual welcome.

Some of Derrin's creations displayed next to a vintage suitcase in the porch.

Some of Derrin’s creations displayed next to a vintage suitcase in the porch.

Inside that porch, Derrin O’Connell showcased some of her creations, like sweet little girls’ dresses and headbands. Her artistry style of hand-stitching, upcycling and more fits this house as does her business name, Tillie’s. Derrin’s mom called her this endearing name when Derrin was growing up. Tillie’s will be among the featured vendors at the Fall 2014 (September 25 – 27) Junk Bonanza Vintage Market at Canterbury Park in Shakopee. Click here for more info.

I love the interesting plant, right, tucked into a corner of the home's exterior. Anyone know its identity? I should have inquired.

I love the interesting plant, right, tucked into a corner of the home’s exterior. Anyone know its identity? I should have inquired.

Now if only I could have toured the O’Connells’ house, I would have been even more pleased. But I was grateful to wander around their yard, imagining the history this house, this land, holds.

BONUS PHOTOS:

Love the message on this plaque.

Love the message on this plaque.

Garden art in the hosta.

Garden art in the hosta.

FYI: Click here to read an earlier post from the Northfield Garden Club 2014 Garden Tour. Watch for additional tour posts.

© Copyright 2014 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

A ginormous Frosty at an historic home February 21, 2014

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Snowman, really up close

FORGET CREATING a mini-sized version of Frosty the Snowman.

Snowman, looking up at

This oversized snowman stands in the Hoisington family’s yard at 18 Third Avenue Northwest in Faribault. My friend John directed me to the snow art last Sunday.

Snowman, from front of house

As impressed as I was by the snowman, I was even more impressed with the house. I love everything about this historic home’s exterior from the front brick pillars topped by lion statues to the sturdy entry columns to the graceful curves to the signature windows. I can only imagine the beautiful interior.

This reminds me of the stately home along Lake Harriet in south Minneapolis.

John, when trying to direct me to the location, referenced the house as Dr. Mc I-can’t-recall-his-name’s home, which meant nothing to me, not being a native of Faribault. I find that historical reference typical of my community. My husband and I, after all, live in “the Swanson house,” even though we’ve owned our home for 30 years.

FYI: This was photographed prior to our two-day thaw of 40 degrees and prior to our Thursday/Friday blizzard.

© Copyright 2014 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Imagine…living in this historic home August 31, 2013

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OH, TO STEP INSIDE this stately house, to imagine its grand past and those who once called this place home.

The "Adam's & Quast House," 406 Main Street South, Hutchinson, Minnesota.

The “Adam’s & Quast House,” 406 Main Street South, Hutchinson, Minnesota.

D. A. Adams had this house built along Main Street South in Hutchinson for $8,000 in 1901 as a replica of the Duke of Norfolk’s house on the estate where Adams was raised.

From what I gather, Adams made his money in the insurance business.

According to the most basic of online info I could find:

“The house will be possessed of every modern convenience, and Mr. Adams will certainly have, when completed, a new house in which he can take great comfort,”—Independent Newspaper, December 11, 1902

Ah, yes, I believe that with some touch-up painting, I could be quite comfortable in this elegant house.

© Copyright 2013 Audrey Kletscher Helbling