Back in 1988, Bob and Sally Couser leapt at the chance to buy the stately Davern farmhouse as soon as they saw it. The country-looking residence, one of the few remaining farmhouses in Ramsey County, sat on two acres in the heart of St. Paul's Highland Park neighborhood.
"It looked like a New England home with a very private setting," said Bob Couser. "It felt like you were out in the country."
They got the house and a mission: to restore the 1860s Italianate-style home to its original beauty.
When the Cousers moved in, the home's decor was dated. The couple tore out the lime green shag carpeting and, over the next two decades, refinished the floors and woodwork and painted or wallpapered every room. They also built a large kitchen addition for Sally, a gourmet cook, and worked with an interior designer to create a traditional style that complemented the home's century-old character.
"The home needed to be resuscitated and allow its rich history to live on," said Couser, a retired Children's Hospital doctor.
Couser, who also is a history buff, spent almost a year unearthing the home's past. He learned that William Davern, an Irish immigrant who served in Minnesota's first Legislature, built the simple wood structure on farmland where he grew wheat, oats and barley.
In the late 1800s, the Daverns sold off some of the land, including a strip called Pike Island, for $72,000 in gold coins. (According to local lore, Davern buried the gold on his remaining property.) By the time he died in 1913, most of the 290 acres Davern had once owned were sold to build new homes in the budding Highland Park neighborhood.
The four different owners who followed the Daverns modified the home and expanded its footprint. In 1929, a two-story addition included the showy marble fireplace in the dining room. Today the well-preserved home, which had been added to the National Register of Historic Places, is just over 4,000 square feet and includes four bedrooms and three bathrooms.
The Ramsey County History Center published Couser's booklet about the Davern house in 1991.
"I wanted to pass on the history with the house," said Couser. "It's an important historical structure in St. Paul. The story of the Daverns mirrors the story of immigrants settling in Minnesota."
And now, he wants to pass on the house.
In 2008, Sally died. And Couser is ready for a smaller house that requires less upkeep.
"We planned all the remodeling projects together and had a wonderful time living here," he said. "With Sally gone, it's just a structure, not a home. I hope someone else can create memories."
Jane Austin McGrath of Coldwell Banker Burnet has the listing, 651-282-9625.