Sometimes less is more

Alexander Ramsey House
Alexander Ramsey House

Back in the 1870’s the Ramsey house probably only had one wreath on the door during the holidays. I like the simple decorations and they are all cordless.  The inside of the is decorated for the holidays too and there are tours and holiday events Throughout the holidays and even on Black Friday.

Alexander Ramsey was the first Governor of the Territory in 1849 and the only person from the Whig party to govern. He was appointed by the 12th president of the United States, Zachary Taylor.

History might be smaller than you think

The oldest homes in St. Paul are found just West of Downtown in the West 7th neighborhood. They date back to the 1850’s and 40’s which pre-dates Victorian-era architecture.

In the 1850’s St. Paul homes were small and simple, with floors made of fir or maple. The ceilings were high and there weren’t many closets. People did not have as much stuff or as many clothes to cram into closets in those days. Sometimes bedrooms had hooks on the wall and no closet at all. That doesn’t work anymore. (See what is a bedroom?)

The John Lewis house at 412 Goodrich is a great example of a historic home or an old house depending upon your point of view. It was built in 1856 and is one of the oldest houses in St. Paul. It has about 1000 square feet of living space, two bedrooms, one bath and no garage. The most recent sale was in 2015 for about 30K.

1856 house
John Lewis House – 1856

We lost quite a few of these old/historic houses during the great recession and we almost lost this one. It will cost about 45K more than it can be sold for to fix it up.

It often costs more to fix these houses up than they can be sold for which is why they end up being bulldozed, which is a shame. They really do not build them like they used to and they won’t because builders need to build large houses in order to make a profit.

This house didn’t do anything wrong and really doesn’t deserve the death penalty but it is in disrepair and cannot be inhabited.

Little Bohemia Neighborhood Association and Historic Saint Paul are collaborating to preserve and rehabilitate the property. An event to raise money in support of the project will be held on Sunday, November 5, from 3 to 6 p.m. at Bad Weather Brewing, located at 414 West 7th St. The event will feature beer specials, a silent auction, raffles and other activities, including information about the Lewis House.

To find out more or make a donation online go to the Historic Saint Paul web site

There is also a Facebook page for the project

To see what the house looks like in color click on the image below.

412 Goodrich

Old on the outside, newer on the inside

brick turret
Historic brick and stone

I know my St. Paul condo buildings because I have seen the inside of many of them. What is historic on the outside may look like it was built in the 1980’s on the inside.

The original woodwork was replaced with blond oak and the floors are carpeted. The “old world” charm can not be found on the inside. In fact sometimes there isn’t anything charming about the interior.

There are several buildings in downtown St. Paul that were factories or warehouses that were converted into condos. The kitchens are all new but the buildings still have exposed brick and timber.

They don’t look like they did when they were factories but they look historic and authentic. The developers restored unique historic features rather than just gutting the building and starting over.

There are a few great old buildings that are disappointing on the inside because they were chopped up and made into small apartments that don’t make sense. Who wants a north facing condo with one window?

Historic preservation districts have rules about how the outside of a building has to look but no rules about the inside.

Nice house poor photography

Why do home sellers go to the trouble of patching and painting, staging and fixing everything up and then have it all photographed by someone who doesn’t know how to photograph a house and who isn’t using a DSLR camera with a wide angle lens?

It is hard to look at some of the beautiful historic St. Paul homes on the MLS and find dark rooms with antique light fixtures turned off.  The camera lens used to take the photos isn’t wide enough to capture the whole room. I can’t even tell which room is which.

The details in a historic home really need to show up in the photographs and they need to be taken with an eye for what is important. I remember several years ago following a photographer through a historic home and taking pictures of what he missed.

You would think it would be hard to make a beautiful home look average but it isn’t. Making an average looking home look outstanding is a bit more of a challenge but always the goal.

Back before the internet photography didn’t matter nearly as much. Even in today’s seller’s market photography matters. Professionally photographed homes sell for more. Thousands of dollars more.

Laurel Avenue
Victorian houses

Also see:

Staging AND Photography

Snow is rare in June

paint is like magic


My own home is looking a little rough these days. It all happens so gradually I hardly noticed. I spend so much time looking at other peoples houses I don’t really see my own. This spring I have been doing a little painting.

I gave the metal plant stand on the front port a couple of coats of black paint, and then put a fresh coat of white on the rocker that sits next to it. I put a fresh coat on the porch railings too. So many things can be improved with a coat of paint.

Last summer I painted the front door and this summer I’ll be painting some porch ceilings and some trim. Paint makes what is old look new again and it is cheaper than moving or buying new stuff. 🙂

Painting inside is a great way to freshen things up before selling a home.

Got Paint?

It is the little things

If you are planing to sell your home, consider the front door. Clean it up, paint it or replace it. Your front door matters, If the lock is hard to work and the door knob wobbles that may give potential buyers the impression that your home isn’t well maintained.

Nothing says I don’t care like a beat up front door.