Old House Plans

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David Greene
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Old House Plans

Postby David Greene » February 10th, 2014, 6:05 pm

I've tried elsewhere but thought maybe the folks here might have some experience with this.

Some years ago I put together a history of our house. I wanted to find original plans or drawings of it but never succeeded. I know who the builder was, when it was built, the development company and I even found the original Minneapolis Tribune ad pricing it at $4,175. It sold for much less according to the abstract. The builder, John Calder, seems to have been somewhat well known at the time and I think he has his own addition to the city up in North. I looked up the original permits which also list the plumber.

I'm almost certain it was a stock plan but not something from Sears and the like since I haven't ever found any catalog numbers on beams or other parts. I contacted Barbara Bezat at the Northwest Architecture Archives and looked through a bunch of home catalogs there (Keith's etc.) with no luck. The Archives are a bit thin for the period the house was built (1905). I also looked at a few old home magazines at the Central library but nothing came of it. I did find an interesting book on period interial detailing which fleshed out some of what the interior finishings ought to look like.

The Henepin History Museum did not have any photographs of the house and a search of the MN Historical Society online photo archive didn't turn up anything.

I am hoping maybe when the builder passed on his collection of plans went somewhere safe, perhaps to a relative or library somewhere.

We are slowly restoring this thing. We're doing an exterior overhaul this spring and plan to someday open the porches and restore the trim and doors on the second floor which were completely removed and replaced with ranch-style design (ugh) by a previous owner. Most critically, a wall and foyer entrance was removed separating the parlor (?) from the first-floor living space and dining area. We've considered restoring that but have no idea what it might have looked like. I think it may have been an open arch but the footprint where the floor was touched up (where the walls used to be) seems just a slight bit too narrow for a proper archway. I don't think the house was fancy enough to have pocket doors and in any case I think those were out of fashion by the time the house was built.

Can anyone suggest other places to search for old home plans or other ways to get at what the original look might have been? I try to hit open houses when I can to compare and there are several houses in the area that look similar to ours. I haven't yet had the guts to ask someone to let me in one of those. :)
Last edited by David Greene on February 10th, 2014, 9:03 pm, edited 1 time in total.

seanrichardryan
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Re: Old Home Plans

Postby seanrichardryan » February 10th, 2014, 8:40 pm

Much of restoration is careful deduction based on evidence, existing conditions and accumulated knowledge. I sounds like you've exhausted most of the local sources of individual & 'paper' research. You may need to tap some minds next.
Q. What, what? A. In da butt.

David Greene
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Re: Old Home Plans

Postby David Greene » February 10th, 2014, 9:02 pm

seanrichardryan wrote:You may need to tap some minds next.
Do you have any suggestions?

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mister.shoes
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Re: Old Home Plans

Postby mister.shoes » February 10th, 2014, 9:38 pm

Nicole Curtis? ;)
The problem with being an introvert online is that no one knows you're just hanging out and listening.

ztr421
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Re: Old House Plans

Postby ztr421 » February 11th, 2014, 9:22 am

We did similar research on our first house, and I think we did all the things you did (found the original building permit, went to the Northwest Architectural Archives, the Hennepin Hist Museum, and also a strange room up in the attics of the Mpls City Hall where they had old aerials of the neighborhood (this was about 14 years ago, so my memory about that is sketchy, but I know we climbed up a lot of stairs and it was almost like the guy who worked up there had been forgotten by time...)). Our building permit for that house (built 1916ish) had the architect listed on it; but the one for the house we're in now doesn't list it (built 1915ish and in the same neighborhood). You might have exhausted all of the paper trail, but have you tried talking to any older neighbors? We actually found out who the architect was on our first house from a neighbor before we started doing the research (she knew that the previous owner had already done their own research) - so it's possible someone who's been around a while might know something.

One other thing you could try is looking at the census records (1910, 1920, 1930, 1940 are available) and see if you can track down any descendants - they might have pictures that they would share with you. This is something we did for our current house (I found the grand-daughters of a previous owner and wrote to them.. it's amazing/scary what you can do with google!).

Good luck! I know this kind of thing can be frustrating, but it's also really fun! (at least I think it is...)

twincitizen
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Re: Old House Plans

Postby twincitizen » February 11th, 2014, 10:38 am

Just FYI, I changed the title of the thread to "Old House Plans", because the former title makes me think only of sour cream.

David Greene
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Re: Old House Plans

Postby David Greene » February 11th, 2014, 1:40 pm

ztr421 wrote:One other thing you could try is looking at the census records (1910, 1920, 1930, 1940 are available) and see if you can track down any descendants - they might have pictures that they would share with you. This is something we did for our current house (I found the grand-daughters of a previous owner and wrote to them.. it's amazing/scary what you can do with google!).
I actually did manage to track down the children from the first family who lived there (I think) and know they passed away in Ohio and California. I wasn't sure where to go from there. I have no idea if they had any descendants. Census records post-1940 aren't public yet. Do you have any suggestions of where to look?

I've thought about talking to older neighbors. None live close to our block AFAIK so I don't know them at all. I contacted the church the family attended but as far as I know they didn't find anything. I should follow up with them to make sure.

It *is* really fun to research this stuff. I found newspaper society notes talking about a mother/daughter trip out west, high school yearbook entries for the kids (with pictures!), mention of the mother being committed to an insane asylum (!) and other really interesting tidbits. I even know where the father's hardware shop was located (right where Calhoun Square is now) and when it burned down.

MplsSteve
Nicollet Mall
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Re: Old House Plans

Postby MplsSteve » February 12th, 2014, 1:28 pm

I was able to track down descendents of the original owner of my 1880 house using Ancestry.com which accesses a lot of different records in addition to the census. It's a little pricey, but you could just join for one month, get all your research down and then drop it. The Hennepin County Library has Minneapolis city directories from 1859-1917 online. It's text searchable so you can type in your address. It's useful for finding occupants who may have lived in your house between census years.

Also, consider that you don't necessarily have to track down the original owners, but any occupants who lived there before major changes were made, which may have been as late as the 1950's (in some ways this is an even better strategy since casual home photography became much more common as the century progressed).

I wouldn't discount approaching the owners of similar houses in your neighborhood. I know it seems a little awkward, but if you explain your motive, generally most people love showing off their homes. Maybe you could make a general request for help at your national night out block party or some other neighborhood gathering.

dmdhashw
Nicollet Mall
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Re: Old House Plans

Postby dmdhashw » February 14th, 2014, 2:41 pm

MplsSteve wrote:I was able to track down descendents of the original owner of my 1880 house using Ancestry.com which accesses a lot of different records in addition to the census. It's a little pricey, but you could just join for one month, get all your research down and then drop it. The Hennepin County Library has Minneapolis city directories from 1859-1917 online. It's text searchable so you can type in your address. It's useful for finding occupants who may have lived in your house between census years.

Also, consider that you don't necessarily have to track down the original owners, but any occupants who lived there before major changes were made, which may have been as late as the 1950's (in some ways this is an even better strategy since casual home photography became much more common as the century progressed).

I wouldn't discount approaching the owners of similar houses in your neighborhood. I know it seems a little awkward, but if you explain your motive, generally most people love showing off their homes. Maybe you could make a general request for help at your national night out block party or some other neighborhood gathering.
The Central library in downtown Minneapolis has free access to Ancestry.com in the Special Collection. I used it to track down the builder of my apartment building.


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