The Del Calzos’ longtime home in southwest Minneapolis isn’t exactly a bungalow. For starters, it’s much bigger — about 3,600 square feet on three floors — than the typical story-and-a-half Craftsman-style house.
But bungalow fans have embraced the home as one of their own, showcasing it on tours and in the pages of American Bungalow magazine, the bible for bungalow lovers.
“It’s unique, an interesting blend of several architectural styles popular in the early 20th century,” said Tim Counts, president of the Twin Cities Bungalow Club.
Outside, it’s English cottage meets Prairie School, with a bit of Tudor and even a hint of Swiss chalet. Inside, it has bungalow features, including built-ins, natural woodwork and a central fireplace, “but on a more grand scale and more high-end,” Counts said. He cited the home’s stairway balustrade, which features mortise-and-tenon joinery for each tread.
“When I first walked in, I thought that was ornamental, but upon close examination, it was the real thing,” he marveled. “I’ve never seen anything like that in a bungalow.”
Jan Del Calzo fell in love with the house the first time she saw it more than 47 years ago.
“It said something to me: ‘You should live here,’ ” she recalled. “I was struck by the charm of it. It’s a powerful house, but it isn’t overwhelming.”
She was immediately sold on the house. But first she had to sell herself to the home’s owners, Eli and Esther Rosenbloom. “Mrs. Rosenbloom interviewed me,” Del Calzo recalled. “She wanted to make sure it went to someone who would treasure it and be a good steward.”
Jan and her husband, Americo, passed the test, and in 1968, they bought the house, which sits on a double lot filled with a forest of tree species: white pine, pagoda dogwood, Kentucky coffee tree, ginkgo and butternut, as well as maple, oak and ash. “It’s a wooded wonderland,” said listing agent Tom Kendall of Lakes Area Realty. “It’s rare to have that type of private lot in the city.”
The trees are the legacy of the home’s designer and original owner, Paul Mueller, a Harvard-trained landscape architect. The rest of the landscape was ahead of its time, with low-maintenance groundcover, such as pachysandra and hepatica, in place of turf grass.
“There is no lawn in front, and very little in back,” Jan said.
Mueller built the house in 1911-12 on a large parcel of land where he’d already built a studio, designed by noted Prairie School architect William Gray Purcell, a partner in Purcell & Elmslie.
Mueller’s design for his own home was heavily influenced by the Prairie School, from the overhanging eaves to the bands of windows. “He borrowed from Purcell,” said Jan.
Mueller’s wife, Ethel, an artist, also put her touch on the home, creating a bas-relief plaster mural of pine trees and sailboats, plus an enscribed poem, in the master bath.
In 1925, the Muellers had their stone-and-brick house moved, by horse-drawn trailer, down the block so they could sell off three of the lots. “It was quite an engineering feat,” Jan said.
She’s carefully researched the home’s history over the years, but at the time they bought it, the Del Calzos knew nothing about its era or architecture. “We didn’t understand the Arts & Crafts movement,” Jan said. “We hadn’t heard of it.” So she first decorated the home in the flower-power style of the time. “I did it in yellow and pink. It was awful!” she admitted.
But after attending an Arts & Crafts show in Asheville, N.C., the Del Calzos were “blown away” by the vintage furniture, lamps and linens they saw, and started collecting.
Gradually they returned the house to a Craftsman color palette of warm earthtones. Jan painstakingly stripped and refinished the painted woodwork back to its natural state. The couple added vintage and reproduction lighting and wallcoverings, and even hired an artist to restore Ethel Mueller’s bas-relief bathroom mural, which had been painted over.
The distinctive house has always attracted attention. When the Del Calzos met new neighbors, they were often introduced as “the people who live in that great house,” Jan said.
One day, a tour bus filled with admirers stopped in front of the house to take pictures. “I’m in a whole lot of Japanese tourists’ photos,” she said.
“Everyone who has lived here has come back to see it … the Mueller children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren,” she said. “A couple years ago, a lady appeared at our doorstep, saying her uncle had lived here. She was from California, and he had told her, ‘If you’re ever in Minneapolis, you’ve got to see it.’ ”
The Del Calzos, who raised their two children in the home, are now ready to downsize to a condo in Edina.
But, like the Rosenblooms before them, they hope to hand over the keys to someone who will appreciate and preserve the house. Its location in the popular Lynnhurst neighborhood and its double-wide lot make it a tempting teardown candidate, Jan fears.
A teardown would be “a terrible loss,” according to Counts of the Bungalow Club. “These old homes are a treasure, with quality materials and craftsmanship that is almost unavailable today — at any price.”
Tom Kendall and Carol Bennett of Lakes Area Realty have the listing, 612-929-9200.