A stately limestone mansion in St. Paul, built during the Roaring ‘20s, shares some design DNA with New York City’s iconic Grand Central Terminal, aka Grand Central Station.
The mansion’s original owner, Carl Schuneman, owner of Schuneman’s Department Store, hired architect Allen H. Stem of the firm Reed & Stem, which had won the commission to design Grand Central about 20 years earlier.
The design for Schuneman’s Tudor Revival house, with its steep gable dormers and two-story bays, was reportedly inspired by his wife’s desire for a house that reminded her of the East Coast.
Current owners Sue and Brad Hewitt also were looking eastward when they bought the house three years ago. At that time, they were living in Plymouth, but work, family and church commitments were increasingly pulling them to St. Paul.
When they found the Schuneman house, they were charmed. “It’s a piece of art,” said Sue. “A lot of older homes are dark, but this is flooded with natural light.”
The location, on Grand Hill, a block off Summit Avenue, was another plus. “There’s no traffic. No noise. It’s a hidden gem.” The backyard, with its old stone walls, a wrought-iron fence and a fountain was peaceful and inviting.
And with 9,500 square feet, the house had ample spaces for entertaining, hosting fundraisers and meetings of the church, the Wherehouse, that the Hewitts were trying to help establish.
“We wanted to use it fully to bless others,” Sue said of the house.
The house had recently undergone a complete, multiyear restoration by contractor Ed Conley, who combined several smaller rooms to create a spacious, state-of-the-art kitchen, with custom enameled white cabinets, marble countertops, a walnut-topped island and top-of-the-line appliances. “It’s everything you’d want,” said listing agent Steve Norton, Norton Realty.
Conley also added an interesting detail on the third floor — a set of bells to summon servants to different parts of the house. “Ed was a big fan of ‘Downton Abbey,’ ” said Norton. Conley even tracked down the English bell maker for the show to create the bells.
Now after three years of living in the home, the Hewitts have put it on the market. The commitments that drew them to St. Paul have shifted. “We will move back to the west side, where our roots are,” said Sue.
She’ll miss living in the house. “Every room has beauty in it. You walk in and go, ‘Ahhh,’ ” she said. She’ll miss the walkable neighborhood. “There are 22 restaurants in a half-mile radius.” And she’ll miss her neighbors, who gather for monthly “soup nights” and an annual July 4th picnic. “It’s the most friendly, cohesive, everybody-welcome neighborhood I’ve ever lived in.”