Building Edina’s Baird House

An 1886 home required hard labor.

On their 20th wedding anniversary, sheep farmer George Baird promised to give his wife, Sarah, a new house, and the house still stands 127 years later as an Edina landmark.Building such a grand home in 1886 was no easy task, as Sarah documented in her diary. In January, Sarah pored over drawings, but wrote, “George thinks my plan is too large, so we cut it down. I don’t like the dining room now, but perhaps the architect can make it all right.”They picked prominent Minneapolis architect Charles Sedgwick to revise Sarah’s drawings. Live-in farmhand Robert Purdy suffered frostbite as he hauled the brick to the site, wagon-load by wagon-load, in the bitter January cold.Finding skilled labor seemed nearly impossible. Minneapolis workmen promised to travel to what was then remote Richfield Township and then failed to show. One contractor arrived drunk one afternoon, crashed his wagon and disappeared for a few days, bringing work to a standstill.When the workers finally appeared, Sarah fired up her wood stove, frying doughnuts, baking bread and cookies, and preparing meals for the crew. Offerings varied depending on the cooperation of the weather, the stove and the food available: pig’s feet, fish, dandelion greens and tough beef graced the menus. Sarah fell into bed exhausted each night and wondered why she felt unwell.George made several trips to Minneapolis to find a “girl” to help Sarah with her household chores, but Sarah found her assistant more irritating than helpful; she hired and fired at least three women as none could satisfy her.They worked so hard that they forgot George’s birthday and even labored on the Sabbath. “Oh, what work for a Sunday—more sin than I have seen before!” Sarah wrote in her diary as the project continued.Finally, they moved in January 28, 1887, even though the plastering, painting and carpets were not yet done. Sarah soon began writing of the pleasures of her new home: a bath in an indoor tub, light from the stained glass windows and the cozy warmth of their well-built home.