Undoing a duplex is a huge, daunting job. But Gary Anderson and Tom Waade were determined to tackle it when they bought their Minneapolis house, a handsome Victorian that had been built as a single-family home in 1898, but converted to a duplex in the 1920s.
“We’re both interested in old houses and preservation,” said Waade. And both share an aversion to updates that don’t respect the original architecture of the home. “Our pet peeve is when people rip original features out and put in Sheetrock and skimpy woodwork.”
Fortunately, the pair also had the skills to do much of the work themselves — Anderson is a cabinet maker and builder, and Waade is a professional finisher.
The restoration began 30 years ago after Waade spotted a “For sale” sign in front of the Queen Anne/Colonial Revival-style duplex on Park Avenue S. “I always liked the house,” he said, which was near an apartment building his family owned.
So they decided to take a look. Anderson liked what he saw. “When I moved to the city [from northwestern Minnesota], I thought, ‘If I ever get a house, I’d like pocket doors, fretted columns ... and a built-in buffet.’ ”
The duplex checked all those boxes. However, the neighborhood at that time (the late 1980s) was less than ideal. Park Avenue, once a grand boulevard lined with mansions and gracious homes, had fallen on hard times.
“A lot of the houses were not being maintained, and it was hard to sell them,” said Anderson. “There were a lot of vacant houses.”
Still, Anderson and Waade decided to forge ahead. They bought the house, intent on restoring it to its former glory.
First, there were maintenance issues to address. “The front porch was bad. We had to redo the roof. The soffits were starting to rot,” said Anderson.
And the exterior was covered with lead-based paint, which Waade painstakingly removed, down to the bare wood, and repainted, sections at a time.
Inside, many of the home’s original features, including its massive built-in buffet with stained-glass window, were intact. But the floor plan had been drastically altered when the house was converted to a duplex. The ornate staircase had been removed, to make room for a second entrance and smaller stair. Fortunately, the old spindles and other pieces were still in the attic.
Guided by ‘ghosts’
Guided by an ancient photo, nail holes in the subfloor and “ghosts” (faint traces of where woodwork had been), Anderson and Waade were able to restore their staircase to its former glory. They also re-created the window seat that originally graced the front foyer.
The original butler’s pantry had also been removed, to create a hallway and bathroom for the first-floor unit. Anderson and Waade kept the bathroom, but created a new smaller pantry using vintage cabinet doors.
Four years ago, Anderson and Waade tackled another huge project. When the home became a duplex, the original kitchen on the first floor had been converted into two small bedrooms, with a small kitchen tucked in behind them. The men decided to gut the space and build a new kitchen in the footprint of the old one.
They now have a spacious kitchen that blends modern convenience with Old World charm — granite countertops paired with vintage-look cabinets with Victorian-inspired molding and bin pulls. There’s no dishwasher, but there is an antique crank phone on the wall.
Their home is no longer a duplex but it does still contain a small rental apartment on the second floor. “We were going to make it single-family, but we have enough space — and the rental income is so nice,” said Waade.
Over the years, they’ve researched their home’s history extensively, in part to guide their restoration. They learned that their house was the work of architect James H. Record, who designed a number of other fine homes in Minneapolis and St. Paul. The original owner, real estate developer Samuel Glading, lived there only two years. After his wife died, the brokenhearted developer sold his house to the Gramps family. Harry and Anna and their seven children had been living in an apartment in south Minneapolis. But while Harry, a traveling salesman, was on the road in 1900, Anna inherited some money — and bought the house, without telling her husband. She tacked a note on the door of their apartment telling him to “Come to 3624 Park.” Harry wasn’t happy, but he made the move, undertook the duplex conversion, and lived the rest of his life there.
Later the home was sold to a family who had immigrated from Ukraine. “They were here during the Cuban missile crisis, and built a bomb shelter,” said Waade. It’s still in their basement, equipped with a water tank, toilet, medicine chest, wall chains to support plywood beds, and an escape hatch to the backyard. “There were rusted cans of rations,” said Anderson.
Anderson and Waade are only the fourth owners of their 120-year-old home. They’ve come to appreciate living on Park Avenue. “In winter, we get plowed first,” said Waade. “It’s a wide street, so there’s a little space between neighbors. We can sit on the front porch, have coffee and watch people go by.”
The neighborhood has changed since they first moved in 30 years ago. There are no longer vacant homes around them. People are buying the old houses, fixing them up and fueling an urban renaissance. “We stuck it out, and we’re glad we did,” said Waade. “Things improved a lot. ... I feel like it’s our legacy — we have saved this house, and brought it back to where it was. We feel good about that.”
Take a tour
Historic Park Avenue: A Daylong Adventure of Architecture, Art & Anecdotes
What: Two back-to-back walking tours of Minneapolis’ Park Avenue. Part 1: Mansions of the “Golden Mile,” followed by lunch in an Art Deco apartment lobby. Part 2 (Featured in this story): Historic homes of the upper middle class, including interior tour of a restored 1898 Queen Anne, followed by treats in the garden. Led by architectural historian Ryan Knoke. Sponsored by Preserve Minneapolis.
When: 10 a.m. to noon (Part 1); 2 to 4 p.m. (Part 2), June 16.