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If that’s true, and the house was already a century old in 1938, it would be one of the oldest houses in Minnesota. (The Henry Sibley House in Mendota, considered the oldest private residence in the state, was completed in 1836.)
Hiding its age
Kassan has no way of knowing if the message is authentic. But he does know that 19th-century craftsmen made a practice of “autographing” their work.
“It was customary in those days for a contractor [who worked on a home] to write his name in the stud walls,” Kassan said. Intrigued, he started delving into his home’s history, and invited experts from the state and county historical societies to come inspect it.
They confirmed that the balloon-frame construction included relics dating back to the mid-1800s, including the type of saw cuts visible on some of the wood, the square homemade nails and the hand-cut beams and supports, according to Kassan. (The historians visited more than 20 years ago, and apparently left no records relating to the property.) Kassan said he was told that the house was not a candidate for historic status because it had been remodeled so extensively.
Don Chapdelaine, a longtime Eagan resident and former Dakota County commissioner, also believes the house was built long before 1910 — and that it was moved once before, by his ancestors.
“What I know is, it was in Mendota and it was a hotel,” said Chapdelaine, who, with his wife, Gerry, has researched his family history. The Chapdelaines, early Minnesota settlers from Quebec, bought the building and moved it onto their farmland in Eagan, where it replaced a log cabin.
“It was moved during the winter, by horses, on skids, onto the farm of my great-uncle [Desire “Jerry” Chapdelaine],” Don said.
The Chapdelaines don’t know what year the move occurred, but some records indicate the house was on the Eagan site by 1879.
And the “Van Dyke Farm,” referenced in the writing between the studs, did exist. The Chapdelaines sold the house in 1928 to Arthur Van Dyke, a dentist and dairy farmer, who also served as St. Paul’s postmaster during the 1930s and ’40s.
Today, with its spacious modern rooms and updates, the house doesn’t show its age, except for the vintage room where Kassan keeps his office — and the time capsule he created in the sunroom.
Kassan wanted to preserve what he could of his home’s history, so he built a lit display box into the sunroom wall to frame the handwritten message, along with some of the antique nails and an old horseshoe that once hung above the home’s front door, a 19th-century custom thought to bring good luck.
Now that Kassan and his wife, Carole, are empty-nesters, with nine grandchildren, they’re ready to downsize and possibly spend part of each year in Florida. “We don’t need a big house anymore,” he said. “Our family is grown now, and we would love to pass this home on to a family that will enjoy the history, enjoined with luxury.”
Curtis Burckhardt of Counselor Realty has the listing, 952-921-0913.
Kim Palmer • 612-673-4784