Earlier this month, Erik and Amanda Skogquist hosted a “mud pie” party for their 2-year-old son, Everett, and a small group of children at their Anoka home.
They made mud pies, and baked them in the sun. The theme played off the fact that although grass is starting to grow in the yard, it’s still half dirt.
It’s just one way that the Skogquists are embracing life in an old house that they’re renovating — and not just any old house, but one from the 19th century that they bought a year ago for a dollar and moved down the road.
They’re feeling good about how far it’s come. “The house is livable and everything is OK,” said Erik Skogquist.
“We don’t mind walking around stuff right now,” Amanda Skogquist said.
Last August, the Skogquists moved the house to 314 Monroe St., a block from its original site on Monroe.
In January 2014, the couple had bought the house from the city for $1, saving it from likely demolition. The city had planned to make way for a parking ramp, though that project is still pending.
Local preservationists intervened, seeing the house as worth hanging onto. It doesn’t necessarily have historical significance, but it typifies the Italianate style, with long, narrow windows, detailed cornices and a uniform look in the front, Erik Skogquist said.
For the Skogquists, both of whom have experience moving and rehabbing vintage houses, the timing was right. “We were starting to think about getting a bigger house, but we always wanted an older one with some style,” Erik Skogquist said. “It was an issue and a neighborhood I cared about.”
Erik Skogquist, an assessor who has experience in construction, said he is all for preserving the “unique features that cause people to fall in love with Anoka.”
The couple was able to secure $15,000 from the city to help with the moving costs. As a part of their deal with the city, acquiring the house for $1, they agreed to bring it back to a single-family dwelling — it had been divided into four apartments sometime in the 1960s — while respecting its historical nature. “There are no strict requirements to make me do anything restorative but it is in an historic district,” so any work that needs a permit has to be reviewed by the Anoka Heritage Preservation Commission, Skogquist said.
Once the house was on the new lot, where it replaced another house that had been torn down, a foundation was poured, creating a new basement. It took a week to get it “jockeyed into position,” Erik Skogquist said.
Next, the utilities had to be hooked up, which took most of the winter.
Finally, in April, the family moved in. Then, along with lots of helpers, they got to work sanding, painting and priming walls and floors, repairing trim and knocking down walls.
They got rid of the green shag carpeting and linoleum plywood from the 1920s, painted over paneling from the 1960s and restored 1880s wood floors. Some of the work began before the house was moved, Erik said.
Ripping out the linoleum in the dining room was especially daunting, as it had been stapled and glued down. “All of these dots are where the staples were pulled out one by one,” Amanda said, adding, “It was no hack job,” and it took forever to undo.
Now, the dining room floor is hardwood, with patches of wood that was salvaged from an old Minneapolis school.
The couple took out a bathroom to make way for a hallway near the front. That transformation sticks out most for Amanda, thus far.
In the kitchen, which now has a different layout, they refinished the cabinets and did a makeover on the island. An old living room is now a playroom. In some parts of the house, vestiges of the 1960s, like light fixtures or flooring, remain. When you peel off a layer, “You can see how the house changed over time,” Amanda said.
Still a work in progress
The couple wants to play up the older features, while also functioning in a modern way.
They’ve furnished the house with some antiques, which ties in to its stature, Erik said.
However, they still need to hang curtains, install shelves, swap out light bulbs, things that “make it look like we live here,” Erik said.
Erik pointed to a picture hanging on the wall behind them — an architectural rendering of Grand Central Terminal in New York City. “That’s the only piece of art we have on the walls,” he said, adding that they got it from his brother, Bjorn Skogquist, a former mayor of Anoka.
Right now, the Skogquists are focused on completing construction of a two-car garage, which is on the homestretch.
They’re waiting until September to have a housewarming party, partly because without central air-conditioning, “We don’t want it to get too warm in here,” said Erik.
“We knew what we were getting into but everything takes longer than we thought,” Amanda said. Then again, “We might be crazy,” she added.
A huge draw
The house is a huge draw for passersby, especially when the Skogquists are working outside.
People are constantly stopping by to check on its progress or share a story about a previous tenant. It’s a bit surreal that “everyone who walks by knows everything about the house,” Erik said.
At the same time, Amanda has developed a loyal following for her house updates on Facebook.
The couple is trying to get the house into shape for the city’s heritage home and garden tour next year. “There’s so much desire to know about it,” he said.
Erik’s mom, Barb Thurston, who lives nearby and serves on the Anoka Historical Preservation Commission, can vouch for that. She’s constantly fielding questions about the house. “People at church tell me they drive by every Sunday after the service,” she said.
Since she’s retired, Thurston was able to come over during the day to help out.
Her husband, Joey Norton, a draftsman, drew up plans for the stairs along with other aspects of the house.
When Erik and Amanda first told her about the project, “I was really happy. It’s a way to help save the neighborhood,” she said. At the same time, “I knew it’d be a lot of work for forever,” Thurston added.
That being said, they’ve already made tons of progress. “When you drive by, if you didn’t know any better, you’d think it fit there,” she said.
Anna Pratt is a Minneapolis freelance writer. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.