Erik and Amanda Skogquist peeled off a $1 bill in exchange for the keys to their new Anoka home last January.
“We paid cash for our home,” Amanda Skogquist boasts playfully.
That fantastic price came with a big catch: The young Anoka couple bought the historic two-story house from the city with the promise they’d move it and restore it.
That move is now imminent and the renovation has started. The house at 210 Monroe St. has been lifted off its foundation and placed on cribbing — which Erik Skogquist describes as life-size Lincoln logs. The house will be towed in the dark of night, to avoid traffic, to a new lot one block away at 314 Monroe. The move should happen sometime this month, weather and other logistics permitting.
The project has made the Skogquists the talk of the town. The couple say they are constantly asked about it by friends, co-workers and neighbors.
“All the time. Every day. Multiple times a day,” Erik Skogquist, 30, said.
The Skogquists and their 2-year-old son, Everett, recently walked over to the work sites, and several neighbors stopped by to chat and get the latest update. Erik Skogquist was already a bit of a public figure. His brother served as mayor and Erik also ran for the office.
Erik and Amanda Skogquist, both raised in Anoka, rescued the old house from the wrecking ball last summer. In 2012, the city Housing Redevelopment Authority bought the home surrounded by surface parking lots for $190,000 for the land underneath. The plan was to demolish the house and possibly build a parking ramp that could serve a nearby school-district building and the historic downtown. The home, built in the 1880s, has curb appeal but has been subdivided into four apartments and otherwise altered over the years. It’s considered a good example of the Italianate style but nothing significant in history happened there.
A citywide preservation-vs.-progress debate ensued, with the HRA agreeing to accept bids on the house with the caveat it be moved.
The Skogquists were the only bidders.
“Growing up in this neighborhood, I hated to see a house like this go,” Erik Skogquist said.
The city agreed to give the couple $15,000 in financial assistance — what the city would have paid to tear the house down.
“I think everyone felt good about the final outcome. We are spending $15,000 to move it and not $15,000 to knock it down, “ said HRA Chairman Carl Youngquist at the time the deal was struck. “We are excited about the fact it’s going to be moved. It will be moved to an area where it will fit.”
In some respects, the Skogquists are uniquely qualified for the job. Both Erik’s and Amanda’s parents have moved and restored homes. In recent years, the couple helped Amanda’s parents renovate a farmhouse in Palisade, Minn., after it had been moved from its original location to a lot on the Mississippi River. The Skogquists said they anticipate their families will pitch in with their renovation.
Erik’s mother, Barb Thurston, is on the city’s Heritage Preservation Commission. Erik Skogquist grew up watching his parents restore their historic home near downtown Anoka. Plus, he has a background in construction and works as an assessor. And both he and Amanda aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty.
“We just went for it,” said Amanda Skogquist, 31, a teacher who stays home to care for their son. “It’s a cool old house. It has good bones. It will be a lot of work but it will be worth it.”
The theme of the project so far has been layers. The couple has navigated through the various layers of local government to buy the house and get necessary approvals to move it. The couple first bid on the house last summer. It took six months to work out the deal. Inside the house, they’ve been peeling off physical layers: carpeting, wallpaper and renovations that have buried many of the original features.
The Skogquists removed a century of old flooring in the entryway that has been converted into a bathroom.
“Every 30 years there was a new layer of floor,” he said. The couple found newspapers from 1934 with references to President Franklin D. Roosevelt under one layer. Another layer of linoleum was dated 1914 by the manufacturer.
In many areas of the house, the Skogquists are finding that the original wood floor is in decent condition. In the foyer excavation, they also found an original six-panel door. In another part of the house, they’ve found a skeleton key still in a lock.
“It was neat. You start to feel how the house original flowed and worked,” Erik Skogquist said.
Costs creep up
The purchase price may have been a dollar, but the Skogquists have written plenty of checks.
It has cost the couple $38,000 to physically move the house. They also had to buy the new lot. They also had to put down a refundable $5,000 deposit with the city in case anything goes wrong during the move.
The basement on the new lot has already been dug. The foundation will be poured when the house is positioned over the hole to ensure a perfect fit, Erik Skogquist said.
They need to build a garage and pour a driveway by the end of the year, according to the city.
“Every time you blink, it’s another couple hundred or thousand dollars. I anticipated that, but you can never be quite prepared,” Erik Skogquist said.
The couple expects to move into the house sometime this fall when the utilities are connected and pass city inspection. The plan is to live in parts of the house while they are working on others.
The Skogquists’ vision is to restore the essence of the home but with modern touches.
“We are not into tight rooms and Victorian couches,” Amanda Skogquist said.
The couple say the renovation will likely take years. They plan on doing it much of it themselves.
Despite the move and renovation costs, the couple still figures they are coming out ahead.
“It’s still cheaper than it would cost to buy a house like that,” Erik Skogquist said.