An 1885 house will be open to tour on Saturday, April 25th, 1-2 p.m. The Twin Cities Vintage Homes Group is sponsoring the tour, with the proceeds to be donated to the Healy Project.
The house in a 1915 photo.
The barn in 1915. The hay mow level was cut off during the 1930s, when the structure was converted into a garage. The little dog, “Taxi”, was the Cartwright family pet.
Sign up for the tour on the Twin Cities Vintage Homes Group Meetup page. Space is limited, so don’t delay. To tour the interior of the house, you must preregister.
The house today.
(Note: This is not a T.P.Healy design.)
The rectilinear Queen Anne at 2648 Emerson Ave. S. in Minneapolis was designed and built by master builder Charles Johnson Buell. After owner Frank Cartwright died in 1942, the house fell on hard times. The Cartwrights had duplexed it during the Depression. Subsequent owners had painted all the woodwork and added two layers of siding, insulbrick and asbestos shakes.
The current owner acquired the house in 1976, and three years later the exterior restoration began with the removal of the siding.
The first of the asbestos shakes being removed in 1979.
Damaged clapboard was replaced, and the shingles on the gable ends repaired. Using the 1915 photo, master carpenter Doug Moore reproduced ornaments and trim. The house was painted in multiple historic colors.
The total restoration of the house took place incrementally, over 30 years. The woodwork in eight of the 12 original rooms has been stripped and refinished. In 1996 the summer kitchen was converted into a four-season room and 3/4 bath. Both of the chimneys and the front porch have been rebuilt. The interior restoration was officially declared complete in 2009 with the replication of the fretwork spandrel between the parlors–done by the same carpenter who reproduced the exterior trim in 1979.
Charles Johnson Buell, 1855-1924
The builder, Charles J. Buell, moved to Minneapolis from New York City in 1880. He served as principal of the Whittier School before becoming a builder. He built his first two houses in the Lowry Hill East neighborhood of Minneapolis in 1884; this house, built 1885, is his third. In 1888, he started building in St. Paul. From 1884-1919 Buell built 30 houses, 25 of which are still standing.
Buell Building List (compiled by Anders Christensen):
1884 402 W. Franklin (residence) Mpls.
2521 Aldrich Ave. S. $2,000
2525 Aldrich Ave. S. $2,000
1885 2648 Emerson Ave. S. $5,100
1887 2714 Girard Ave. S. $1,500 W
1888 2177 Commonwealth $5,000 SP
2173 Commonwealth $500
2210 (Langford N.) Hillside $2,400
930 Bayless $7,450 W
1889 2360 Bayless $5.000
2230-32 (Langford N.) Hillside $5,000
2214 (Langford N.) Hillside $2,400
25 Langford Park West $5,000
1890 2223 Knapp $2,450
1094-96 E. Bayless $6,000 W
1891 977 W. Bayless $2,500
2219 Knapp $3,000
1898 1717 Irving Ave. S. Mpls.
1901 1859 Dayton $3,500 SP
1902 1791 Dayton $2,000
1905 2308 Commonwealth $3,500
1906 1879 Dayton $4.250
1541 Ashland $4,500
1909 1549 Ashland $4.250
1550 Laurel $5,000
1910 1546 Laurel $4,000
1534 Laurel $4,500
1911 1514 Ashland $3,500
1913 1540 Ashland $3,500 W
1528 Laurel $5,000
1915 4748 Bryant $5,000 Mpls.
1919 2173 Commonwealth $3,200 SP
2210 Hillside Avenue (then North Langford) in St. Paul. Built by Buell in 1888.
On the morning of February 25th, excavation trucks turned up on site at 2316-2320 Colfax Avenue South. Then came the backhoe. By around 9 o’clock, demolition was under way. The backhoe went at the Orth House all day, but still hadn’t completely demolished it. Compare that to the usual time it takes to demolish a modern dwelling–less than an hour.
See video and stills of the demolition here.
Demo begins at the back of the house.
Two men worked on the demolition, one on the backhoe and another guy walking around seemingly aimlessly, heedless of peril from lead-filled particulates and falling debris. Neither wore respirators to protect themselves from the toxic dust. At one point the machine operator knocked the chimney and a large chunk of the front gable and cornice onto the front of the backhoe. The site was not roped off, and at times debris fell onto the sidewalk.
The backhoe chews through the west side.–A.C.
The backhoe does its job on top of rubble from the house.–A.C.
Brian Finstad, who watched the demo, reported on this OSHA nightmare: “The Orth House demolition was done without proper procedure for lead containment. Neighbors watched as literally plumes of lead contaminated dust rose into the air and on a very windy day disbursed upon the neighborhood. Only after well into an hour into the demolition (and they probably realized they were being photographed) did they bring out a hose to spray down the dust, but even that was only a token effort and the contaminate continued to disburse into the neighborhood.”
The other guy with a woefully inadequate hose.–A.C.
A long shot from the back end of the site. The other guy looks on.–A.C.
2316 getting hit by the backhoe.–W.L.
Clouds of lead-filled particulates rise from the debris.–W.L.
The side view, with the back half in rubble.–W.L.
The top half is gone, ‘hoe working on the first floor.–W.L.
A chunk out of the middle, south end.–W.L.
Closeup of the foundation.–W.L.
The front entrance, with temporary house number so crew knows which house to wreck.–W.L.
Backhoe tearing into curved bay window on north side.–W.L.
Just before the curved 122-year-old window was smashed to smithereens.–W.L.
The temporary house number.–W.L.
The Orth House, built by master builder T.P.Healy, 1893. Wrecked by Michael Lander, with the aid of CM Lisa Bender, 2015.
The original leaded glass house number.–T.B.
Le roi est mort, vive le roi! The Orth House is gone, long live the legacy of T,P. Healy, King of the Queen Anne!
2320 Colfax Avenue South, 1893-2015,–B.R.
Photo credits: Anders Christensen, Will Lumpkins, Trilby Busch, Bob Roscoe.
Click here to DONATE to save the house via Paypal. Donations are also being accepted via GoFundMe “Help Healy Project Save the Orth House.”
This morning neighbors and other admirers of the Orth House gathered in front of 2320 Colfax Avenue South to take a photo. The photo was then uploaded to the gallery of photos of “Places That Matter” on the website of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
Gathering at 24th and Colfax for the shoot.
Holding the big sign with “This Place Matters”, a trademark of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
Canines and humans letting everyone know that “This Place Matters.”
The official photo uploaded to the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s gallery of pics of places that matter.
Videographer Marlee MacLeod documenting the event, interviewing Trilby Busch.
The historic Orth House, designed and built in 1893 by T.P.Healy, and the transitional design in his illustrious career as master builder.
Photos by Bradley Lemire
“Merlin, if you don’t stop whining, I’m going to take Gwen’s sword and beat you to death with it,” said Arthur, evenly.
“So it will take me a long time. I’m still game.”
― FayJay, The Student Prince
The Orth House at 2320 Colfax Avenue South, which the Minneapolis Heritage Preservation Commission declared an “historic resource” last March, is again facing possible demolition. Owner Michael Crow has submitted an application to the HPC for a permit to wreck an historic resource.
|The Orth House later this year?
Here’s a summary of the events following up to this renewed attempt to demo the house:
Designed and built by T.P. Healy in 1893, the 6,400 square-foot house is currently a 15-unit rooming house. In the fall of 2012, the Lander Group put forth a proposal to wreck 2320 Colfax and the house next door to clear the site for a 44-unit apartment building. Last February when the owner applied for a wrecking permit for 2320, the Healy Project appealed to the Heritage Preservation Commission. After the HPC declared the house to be an historic resource, Crow appealed to the City Zoning and Planning Commission. The dispute came to a head at the April meeting of Z&P, which denied the owner’s request to overturn the HPC’s ruling.
In this second round in the owner’s effort to get a demolition permit, the process is essentially the same as last year. The HPC will hear Crow’s application at its February 18th meeting. If the HPC allows the permit, demolition can go ahead to clear the site for the Lander Group’s four-story apartment building, unless the Healy Project appeals, which it will. If the HPC denies the permit, Crow can appeal to the City’s Zoning and Planning Commission to overturn the HPC’s decision.
|The 2300 block of Colfax Avenue South, Orth House at far left. If 2320 is wrecked, the houses on the entire 2200-2300 block will be in danger, including two other houses by T.P. Healy and two more by Harry Jones.
The house has been declared an historic resource, so arguments for demolition will be focused around the economics of development. The cleared land is worth about a third more than the land with the house on it. The owner claims it is his right to sell it for top dollar. No matter that he has had income out of the house for the two decades he owned it, with no improvements to the property except repairs and maintenance. The City in fact would be rewarding a landlord who made only required repairs to his property, while penalizing neighboring homeowners who have invested considerable sums into renovating and restoring their houses. Why are their houses worth more than 2320? Their investment. Why is 2320 worth less than the land it stands on? Crow’s choice to minimally maintain the house as income property.
|The Orth family on the porch of their house (2320 Colfax S.), 1890s.
Zoning and planning issues (which this is) are hot-button ones. This fight between a developer and the neighborhood will go on at City Hall until the bitter end. Residents in the surrounding neighborhood are banding together to stop Crow and the Lander Group. The Healy Project will continue to fight against the Lander Group’s ill-conceived, wasteful development and advocate for a development plan that incorporates the Orth House.
For more background on the fight to save the Orth House see posts on this blog from January to June 2013.
Meanwhile, across the city. . .
|Bulge in the boa: Plan of proposed 35W expansion at Lake Street.
|Homeowners in the Healy Block Historic District are fighting to stop the widening of 35W at the 31st Street exit ramp. Nearly three years ago, plans were initiated for the $150 million Transit Access Project (TAP), which calls for a $46 million bus station in the middle of the freeway at Lake Street. The new station will offer easier bus connections to Lake Street and access for bicyclists to the Midtown Greenway. However, along with the station, plans call for expanding the northbound off-ramp by thirty feet, bringing the pavement virtually to the front yards of the famous Healy Queen Anne houses on Second Avenue.
|1936 photo of Second Ave S. from the 31st Steet intersection
David Piehl, who lives in the J.B. Hudson House on Second Avenue, has been working with the various government agencies involved to convince them that expanding the highway would render the houses unlivable. In the 1960s construction of 35W took the west side of the block, and since then, traffic has rumbled by the houses 24/7. Piehl points out that living on the block already is stressful. The houses shake, plaster cracks, windows rattle, bathwater ripples. The air on the block is among the most polluted in the state. Bringing the highway even closer would create intolerable emotional stress for the residents and structural stress to the buildings.
|The Hudson House in the days before people sitting on the porch didn’t see a freeway across the street.
|Piehl and other residents of the Healy Block have formed a group called Stop35W to inform the public about this renewed threat to their homes. They have posted signs in their front yards and set up a website (http://stop35w.org/main.php). In November, the Healy Project’s kickoff tour showcased this block to show what kind of woes freeway expansion would amplify on this already-besieged historic area. (See Oct. 31, 2013 post)
Links to articles about the 35Wexpansion:
Commentary about TAP:
|Do not pave up to historic houses.
Watch this blog and the Healy Facebook page for news about these ongoing battles to preserve the investments of Minneapolis owner-occupants and the architectural legacy of Minneapolis.
Answer: The one standing.
So says Carl Elephante, Director of Sustainable Design at Quinn Evans Architects. Last year, the National Trust for Historic Preservation released a study, “The Greenest Building: Quantifying the Environmental Value of Building Reuse,” with data that supports this contention. The report uses Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) to compare the relative impacts of building renovation and reuse versus new construction. The description of the study says that it “examines indicators within four environmental impact categories, including climate change, human health, ecosystem quality, and resource depletion.”
|copyright, National Trust for Historic Preservation
According to the study, wrecking a building and replacing it with a new one comes with very high environmental and economic costs. Let’s look at what how these costs apply to the wrecking of the historic Orth House at 2320 Colfax Ave. S.in order to build the Lander Group’s new four-story apartment building:
First is the cost of destroying the existing structure. Wrecking the Orth House (and its neighbor at 2316) will cost the developer approximately $30,000 each. Add to this cost, the waste of the building materials of the house. The Orth House, a large 6,000+-square-foot house, is estimated to weigh 180 tons, not including the foundation (John Jepsen, Jepsen, Inc.). The Orth House was built in 1893 of lumber from Minnesota’s virgin forests. This irreplaceable resource will be hauled off to a landfill, never to be used again. The plaster, lath, windows, and mechanical systems will similarly be trashed. Yes, some of these features could be removed for salvage; however, the sad fact is that staircases, doors, and windows in a house of this size and vintage cannot easily be fitted into an existing structure. To reuse them, one would have to custom build a structure they could fit into. And what’s the point of that when they are already serving their purpose in the existing house?
|The Orth House today.
Second is the cost in labor and materials to build the new structure. New construction consumes many resources. The developer’s claim about energy savings makes no sense because new construction consumes so much energy upfront in producing new materials. (U.S.Green Building Council) The proposed apartment building is not one that uses a variety of “green” features and technologies, but a run-of-the mill structure. Recycling bins and bicycle racks do not a green building make. In fact, according to the Trust’s study, when replacing an average existing building with a new, more efficient building, it still requires as many as 80 years to overcome the impact of the construction.
|The Orth House c. 1900
Minneapolis City officials and planners have been long giving lip service to sustainability–without doing much to promote or implement it. Take, for example, the squandering of resources via the City’s federally-funded “Green Homes North” initiative. Because the “green” money funds new construction only, the program has resulted in the demolition of houses that could be rehabbed. As the Trust study shows, the “new construction” caveat of the program produces the opposite of what “green” building actually is.
In the seven months since the Lander Group brought forth its proposal to wreck 2320 and 2316 to build a four-story apartment building, nothing has changed to make their project more environmentally friendly. On the contrary, at a hearing in March, architect Pete Keeley announced changes to the building that would require zoning variances to make its footprint even larger–this despite previous assurances to the contrary to the neighborhood association.
From the outset the developer has proposed what is unimaginative at best. At worst, the Lander project will squander irreplaceable resources, replacing a beautiful, historic building with one that is commonplace and built of inferior materials. The Minneapolis Heritage Preservation Commission has declared the Orth House an historic resource. It has stood proudly on the corner of 24th and Colfax for 120 years, and with a little help, could stand for another 120. To reduce construction expenses and maximize profit, the new building will be constructed to have a functional life of 20-30 years. Then it will go to the landfill–and nobody will be appealing to the Heritage Preservation Commission to save it.
Heritage is green. The time has come for the City to consider cultural infrastructure as well as physical infrastructure. The Orth House, the former home of Minneapolis’s first family of brewers (Grain Belt), and the transition design in the distinguished career of master builder T.P.Healy, is the repository of local history, architectural heritage and culture–a legacy that should not be destroyed for the short-term gain of a few.
Recycling existing buildings is essential to creating sustainable cities.
“Every brick in building required the burning of fossil fuel in its manufacture, and every piece of lumber was cut and transported using energy. As long as the building stands, that energy is there, serving a useful purpose. Trash a building and you trash its embodied energy too.”–Robert Shipley
Minneapolis, do the right thing: Support sustainability and save the historic Orth House from the landfill.