Arlene and Brad Forrest weren’t seeking a vintage home — just a shorter commute — when they first looked at their brick Victorian in Edina. But the 19th-century house piqued their interest. “It was different,” Arlene recalled. “It was solidly built, and it had a history, a story that was intriguing. It just sucked us in.”
The home’s story began in 1886 when Sarah Baird began sketching the dream house that her husband, George, had promised her for their 20th wedding anniversary, to replace their modest farmhouse. The couple hired architect Charles S. Sedgwick to design a home, in the Eastlake style, based on Sarah’s drawings.
Today the Baird House, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, still boasts many of its original Victorian elements, including stained-glass windows, pocket doors and ornate woodwork. “When I first looked at it, I thought, ‘Wow! What a lot of gewgaws,’ ” Arlene recalled. “Now I appreciate all the details, down to the decorative hinges.”
The Forrests put an addition on the back of the house to expand the kitchen, family room and master bedroom and add a garage, a project that won the first Edina Heritage Award in 2003, for maintaining the historic integrity of the home. “It’s not obvious where the old ends and the new begins,” Arlene said.
She resisted suggestions that they open up the floor plan. “I said, ‘No, no, no — it’s a Victorian house. I don’t want a big, fancy Tuscan kitchen. ... The rooms aren’t huge. But it’s very comfortable.”
When Lee Anderson and William Fehrenbach embarked on a home search nine years ago, an Edina location was high on their wish list. “My family has a long history in Edina,” said Anderson, a fifth-generation resident who still owns — and uses — pieces of furniture that his family brought from Missouri by covered wagon.
The couple, who wanted a historic home, found just what they were looking for: a well-preserved Arts & Crafts bungalow in Morningside, built in 1912 on a streetcar route that is now W. 44th Street.
The house had all the classic, coveted bungalow features: built-in buffet and bookcases, crown molding and a butler’s pantry. “The wood was in good shape,” Anderson said. “We were lucky this particular home was available.”
Over the years, they’ve made some improvements, including a small rear addition and kitchen makeover that was featured on the 2007 Remodelers Showcase and won a design award. In a nod to the past, their new kitchen features quartersawn oak cabinetry and an upholstered window seat.
Other updates have included a new front portico and the addition of Arts & Crafts-style lighting. “It pulls it all together,” Anderson said. He and his husband appreciate Edina’s sense of community. “As a same-sex couple, it’s really inclusive,” he said. “It’s an honor to be able to live where you grew up, to see it improve as you age.”
Country Club charm
Joyce Mellom first admired Edina’s Country Club district from a distance. “I used to drive up 50th [Street] and look up the streets and think, ‘What a great place that would be to live,’ ” she said. “I fell in love with the sidewalks and mature elms. People were out — it’s very family-friendly.”
For the past two decades, Mellom has experienced the neighborhood firsthand, in the 1929-built Mediterranean-style house she bought in 1993. She raised her two children, now young adults, in the home, and has resisted the temptation to expand its original footprint, choosing instead to maximize existing space. She remodeled the basement to create a home office for her law practice, and tackled many other updates, including new windows, insulation, plumbing, chimney, kitchen and bath facelifts and adding central air-conditioning. “I did everything, a little at a time,” she said.
A member of Edina’s Historic Preservation Board, Mellom is “anti-teardown,” she said. “I cruise through south Minneapolis and see a lot of it going on there, whole streets. Some people think we need bigger houses to draw families. I want to show that these classic homes are very livable.”