After growing up in homes designed by architects, Peter Gesell became something of an architecture buff. So it was game over when he and his partner Liz Flink found a midcentury modern home suspended over a creek flowing into Lake Superior.
"It's unique, one of a kind," said Gesell of the Duluth home. "The fact that it's built over a creek — you could never do that again."
They soon learned that locals had nicknamed it the stilt house. "That's what they call it. When I say I live in the stilt house, people know exactly what I'm talking about."
Gesell and Flink owned the home for 17 years, enjoying not only its architecture, but its 2,450 square feet of space. Now that their children are grown, they've listed the three-bedroom home, which features three en suite bathrooms and an indoor pool.
Listing agent Karen Rue described the house as an engineering feat.
"It's one of a kind because it's kind of like we're selling a steel bridge that happens to have a house on top," she said. "Therein lies the uniqueness of the property and really the value of the property that's unprecedented."
The price, $750,000, factors in the size of the home, its design and engineering while also leaving room for a homeowner who may want to make cosmetic updates, Rue said.
The home, on E. Superior Street in the Congdon Park neighborhood, is surrounded by mansions, including Glensheen. Preservationists refer to the house by its other name, the Erickson house, after Lewis Erickson, who was an executive and chief engineer of Duluth's National Iron Co. at the time it was built.
"He was an inventive individual, and, obviously, you can see he brought his work home with him," said Blake Romenesko, president of the Duluth Preservation Alliance. "I don't think that there's really a house around like it that spans over a creek with steel beams."
But the uniqueness of the home isn't obvious at first glance.
"If you drive past just from the street, you don't really notice it," Romenesko said. "The front facade is at street level, but the entire underneath is hovering over a ravine."
Linda Peplinski, another member of the Duluth Preservation Alliance, said Erickson designed the house as a love letter to his wife, Gwen. According to their son Tom Erickson, Gwen had polio as a child, which affected her all her life.
With Gwen's input, Erickson commissioned a house with one-level living and an open floor plan to allow for accessibility as well as the family's love of entertaining. Swimming was a sport Gwen excelled at, so an indoor pool was included in the blueprint.
Peplinski said the house was ahead of its time when it was built in 1959.
"Gwen made entertaining look easy, a marvel to those not accustomed to the kitchen being on view to the dinner guests," wrote Peplinski in a historical description of the Erickson house.
The home's contractor was Nels O. Wennberg, according to the preservation alliance.
The couple's nephew, David Smith, spent quite a bit of time in the house as a child. He said Lewis was an aficionado of Frank Lloyd Wright and designed the house in that style.
There was no architect, but rather Lewis designed and oversaw the building of the Duluth house as well as his lakeside home near Barnum, Minn., according to Smith.
Gesell said the next homeowner should find the house as livable as it is looky.
"It's just so expansive," he said. "There are two different living areas and a dining area all within the [great room] space" and a fireplace.
He also noted the stunning views.
"Off the [primary] bedroom there's a deck that hangs out over the creek. Along the whole back of the house there's a wall of windows," Gesell said. "When looking out the windows, you're way up in the trees. It's like getting your own treehouse, just a little more of a permanent one."
He added that the structure is as sound as when it was originally built.
"You would have no idea that this house is 60 years old," he said. "There's a brick wall on the west side of the house, and that's the longest wall. I think it's maybe 75 feet long and there's not one crack in the mortar. We had an engineer come in and he said, this house isn't going anywhere."
Karen Rue (email@example.com; 612-916-1110) and Jessica Buelow (JessicaBuelow@edinarealty.com; 612-327-3667) of Gulliford and Rue Realty Team at Edina Realty have the $750,000 listing.