Edina’s 125th anniversary celebration includes a historic homes tour

Edina celebrates 125 years with Historic Homes Tour.
The historic Baird House will be one of the stops on this year's Historic Homes Tour.

There is something thrilling about seeing the inside of other people’s houses. As a young trick-or-treater I yearned to be invited into the foyer in order to crane my neck and imagine the family’s world within, each residence a culture unto itself. Who doesn’t want to see which ornaments command the shelves and which furniture stages the scene?It’s a beautiful exercise to imagine the life of a home—not only the lives of those who live and once lived there, but the life of the house itself. Historic homes, in particular, have a vivid story to share. They have weathered a compendium of affronts: new owners, challenging weather conditions and countless remodels.As part of Edina’s 125th anniversary celebration, a bevy of historic homes will open their doors to the public, including some of the most prominent houses whose exteriors we likely know and admire. The last historic home tour that the Edina Historical Society hosted was for Edina’s 100th anniversary, a quarter-century ago.The tour will feature both historic bungalows and homes that have been remodeled while retaining their historic character. “Here are homes that are functional, beautiful and preserve the historic character of the neighborhood,” says Marci Matson of the Edina Historical Society. “Each shows how older homes can be remodeled without disturbing the community’s heritage.”We’ve chosen to focus on three homes on the tour: an 1886 late Victorian home, an arts and crafts bungalow and a Mediterranean house. Each represents a unique phase in Edina’s architectural history. Visitors’ imaginations will be piqued by volunteer docents from community organizations who are decked out in clothes to match the age of the house.“We are so excited about the number of volunteers; we need a lot to make it successful.” Matson says. “We have these three great groups and they’re all in costume. We are going the whole nine yards.”Dianne Plunkett Latham, chair of the Historic Home Tour, is at the helm of the Edina Historical Society’s quasquicentennial committee. “Dianne has done a number of garden tours via the Edina garden council so she really knows how to run a tour,” Matson says. Plunkett herself grew up in Frank Lloyd Wright’s historic Elam House, and her husband Dan Latham is the current president of the Edina Historical Society. According to Plunkett, these three homes on the historic house tour “demonstrate how older homes can be tastefully remodeled while preserving a community’s architectural heritage as well as the character of individual neighborhoods.”Edina was born in 1888 and has expanded ever since; Edina’s neighborhood houses have witnessed the progression of years and all they entail. It’s tempting to anthropomorphize these structures because they feel like old and loyal friends. Oh, if only those walls could talk!Three Historic Homes in EdinaBaird House – Brad & Arlene Forrest  4400 W. 50th St.The Baird home has not been on a public tour in decades; the chance to see this house is a rare occasion. The red-brick home is on the National Register of Historic Places and retains much of its original 1886 late-Victorian Eastlake style, which is known for its fanciful spires, carvings and moldings. The house won an award in 2003 for its attention to detail in maintaining the historic integrity of the home.“Many people are curious about the Baird house on 50th Street, which is very visible,” says Matson. It’s the kind of house that passers-by take pictures of to post on their Facebook page. It is one of the older homes in the area; it dates from 1886 and was occupied by one of the more prominent families of Edina, Sarah and George Baird. Sarah Baird was the first woman elected as master of the state Grange, a post she held for 18 years. “You can always tell what era people lived in the area,” Matson says, “because they know each house by the last name of the original owner.” Only a few families have lived in this elaborate beauty since the Bairds occupied it.Brad and Arlene Forrest purchased the home in 2001 and are just as involved in the community as the Bairds were in their time. The Forrests, like the Bairds, are active members of the League of Women Voters. To commemorate the women’s suffrage movement, members of the League will wear yellow and white suffragette costumes with yellow ribbons.Notable facts:Neighborhood:  Country Club DistrictDesigned by architect Charles S. Sedgwick, MinneapolisGarden designed by Barb Dunsmore, Countryside Gardens, Delano, and Laura Baxley, Anthemis Landscape Design, MinneapolisOriginal woodwork, decorative tile, stained glass, cistern and the foundation of the original windmill Remodel of the back of house by M/A/Peterson DesignbuildFirst Edina Heritage Award: 2003, for attention to detail in maintaining the historic integrity of the homeArts & Crafts Bungalow – Lee Anderson and William Fehrenbach4006 W. 44th St.On the 100th anniversary of Edina, this 1912 Arts and Crafts bungalow was recommended for Edina Heritage Landmark status by the Edina Heritage Preservation Board. Between about 1905 and 1936, Morningside developers erected several hundred single–family homes, including many bungalows to accommodate a fresh onslaught of commuters to Minneapolis. Each bungalow measures about 1,000 to 1,200 square feet.Owners Lee Anderson and his husband William Fehrenbach appreciated the house’s historical connection to the community as well as the details of the home itself. “We were both really drawn to this home,” Anderson reports. “[It has] great features, architecture and is often cited as a classic example of the Arts and Crafts style that our neighborhood is known for.”Anderson is a fifth-generation Edinan. His mother grew up on a farm, which made way for what is now the crosstown highway. The house is filled with heirloom Anderson family furniture.At the time of construction, the community of Morningside was a separate village, having seceded from Edina in 1920. It returned in 1966 as a “streetcar suburb” or bedroom community. “It’s an older home so it does have its quirks from time to time,” Anderson says. “We know that people are interested in its history, and we are honored to be able to share that.” Extensive but discreet remodeling in 2007 enlarged the kitchen at the rear, added a front portico and refurbished the exterior. The Morningside Women’s Club will be on hand to explain the architectural significance, point out typical bungalow details and discuss the house’s context within the neighborhood.Notable facts:Neighborhood: MorningsideRemodeled by Authentic Construction Co., St. PaulFeatured in the Parade of Homes Remodelers Showcase in 2007 Original unpainted woodwork, built-in buffet and bookcases, swinging pantry door, coal chute, molding and hardwood floorsQuartersawn oak cabinetryOriginal garage and decorative shedAcross from historic streetcar lineMediterranean Country Club District house – Joyce Mellom4506 Arden Ave.One of the first modern planned communities in Minnesota, the Country Club District is rife with examples of classic architecture styles. There were eight different types of model homes available for sale in the new planned community; Tudor, colonial and Mediterranean revival are the most prevalent. Homeowner Joyce Mellom and her family moved into this Mediterranean jewel in 1993. The Italianate villa captured the family’s imagination with its hip roofs (where ends and sides incline) and stucco exterior walls.“We were outgrowing our house near Lake Nokomis and admired the Country Club neighborhood, with its old houses, sidewalks and elm-lined streets,” Mellom says. “We were happy to find a house we could afford.” Mellom, a member of Edina’s Heritage Preservation Board, was also keen to preserve the 1929 structure.The Mellom residence is one in a picturesque row of houses with identical rooflines, window lines and setbacks. This home in particular demonstrates the possibilities of remodeling without altering the historical architecture. “Nearly every house in the Country Club District has been rehabbed, and most of us have lived with the construction dust for months at a time,” Mellom says. “The time, money and effort are well worth it as the neighborhood has maintained its old world charm and remains, 84 years later, a very desirable place to live.”Mellom is a passionate gardener, so the Edina Garden Council members have fittingly stepped up as volunteer docents for this house.Notable facts:Neighborhood: The Country Club District, 1924 by Thorpe Brothers Realty Register of Historic PlacesDesignated Edina Heritage LandmarkRemodels provided insulation, sewer and water pipes, central air and moreUpdated windows, bathroom, roof/chimney, garage, and stucco redash (layer of new stucco), new kitchenOriginal footprintBasement converted into home office @ Read a feature on Donnay Homes, whose $2.6 million luxury spec home in Indian Hills will also be featured on the Historic Homes Tour, in our October edition.Tickets can be purchased in advance in person at the discount price of $15. Tickets can also be purchased on the day of the tour for $20 at the three featured tour homes. Advance tickets can be purchased at:Edina City Hall lobby at 4801 W. 50th St. Advance purchase can be made after July 15 on Monday through Friday between the hours of 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., except holidays. Edina Historical Society at 4711 W. 70th. St. Advance purchase can be made after July 15 on Thursdays from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., or on Saturdays from 10 a.m. to noon. Edina Senior Center at 5280 Grandview Square, Suite 10. Advance purchases can be made after July 15 on Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. except holidays. Make checks payable to the Edina Historical Society with a notation for the Historic House Tour.