The house in Mankato boasts five bedrooms, stained-glass windows, a grand porch.
“Tiled floors,” the real estate listing says, “charm galore!”
But to a cadre of fans across the globe, the home’s value lies in its former occupant — a girl whose literary likeness is named Tib.
Betsy, Tacy and Tib star in a beloved series of children’s books by Maud Hart Lovelace, a Mankato native who modeled their stories on her own childhood there. Like the real-life friends on which they were based, the three girls lived in same neighborhood.
This month, the childhood home of Tib — or in real life, Marjorie Gerlach — went up for sale.
For a moment, it looked as if the Mankato-based Betsy-Tacy Society might raise the money to purchase it. Fans urged the society to buy the “chocolate-colored house,” as it’s known in the books, completing its trio. Years ago, the group purchased and restored the childhood homes of Lovelace and, just across the street, her best friend, known to readers as Tacy.
“We really hate to lose the opportunity,” Julie Schrader, vice president of the board, said early last week. “But it depends on how many fans are out there who are willing to help us.”
The board worried about the cost of buying and maintaining the house, listed at $229,000. But it feared that it might be bought for student housing.
“We are a college town,” Schrader said. “A lot of older homes do get broken up into apartments.”
So the society considered a Kickstarter campaign, or GoFundMe page. But before it could launch one, it got the news: Tib’s house had sold.
“It sold the first day it came on the market,” said Harold Natvig, the listing agent. The soon-to-be owners are “both educators and they have a young family. They are just thrilled.”
The society, too, is relieved — and optimistic, Schrader said. “I’m hoping it’s going to be a Betsy-Tacy-friendly family.”
The house, built in 1885 and designed by architect Henry Gerlach, has had just four owners. The latest, Jacqui and John Woodwick, have lived there since 1994.
The couple’s twin girls were 4 years old then, their youngest daughter an infant. When they played on the grand old porch and in the yard, “little things” would remind Jacqui Woodwick of the books, she said.
“When Betsy and Tacy first meet Tib, she’s out doing handstands on the lawn,” Woodwick said. One day, Woodwick discovered her daughters doing handstands on the lawn, “because that’s what girls do.”
Summers brought Betsy-Tacy lovers from “all over the country” — and as far as Japan, Australia and Sweden — to Mankato, or Deep Valley, the fictional name Lovelace gave her hometown. The Betsy-Tacy Society hosted Deep Valley homecomings, conventions and regular tours of the two nearby homes it had restored. Fans would take photos of Tib’s house, peek in the windows, Woodwick said.
“It was fun to hear their stories and how they came to love the Betsy-Tacy books,” she said.
The family hosted a few events on the house’s grand porch but only once let fans inside.
“After a while it wasn’t the Betsy-Tacy house to us anymore,” Woodwick said. “It was just home.”
A special education teacher, Woodwick is retiring this spring, and the couple will become snowbirds, splitting time between a “itty bitty” cabin and Arizona. Their daughters, now in their 20s, will soon say goodbye to the home. “It’s kind of a bittersweet time,” Woodwick said.
But the sellers are thrilled that the new owners have kids.
“My daughters have always said that this house shouldn’t be a museum,” Woodwick said. “It should be a place where a family lives and a family grows up.”