Among the many distinguished mansions and spacious homes along Summit Avenue in St. Paul is an estate known for its "catslide" porte cochere and grounds that evoke the English countryside.
Now, the Ramsey Hill home that sits on five lots, spans over an acre and boasts 8,500 square feet, seven bedrooms, eight bathrooms and three apartments, is up for grabs.
"It feels like an English country manor. It's one of the most romantic homes I've seen built in the 1880s Victorian era," said listing agent Michael Smith. "And it's one of the most recognizable homes in St. Paul for having such a dramatic catslide port cochere."
A history of thought and care
Built in 1884, the home was designed by architect Abraham Radcliffe, known for several notable Summit Avenue homes as well as the Isaac Staples House in Stillwater.
The Summit Avenue home was built for Walter John Strickland Traill. In the 1920s, Homer P. Clark, former president of West Publishing Co., purchased the property and is believed to have added the catslide port cochere, Smith said.
The home has had other owners over the years. In the 1980s, brothers Morgan and Hub Nelson, impressed by the design drawn from Arts and Crafts, Storybook and Victorian styles, purchased the home.
The Nelsons come from a family of builders and carpenters, so it was only natural that they would look after the place and update it. Their father owned a construction company and built out several developments in the metro area. The brothers ran a business on Selby Avenue in St. Paul and later a mill shop, said sister Maren Nelson.
She said the Summit Avenue place became the family home. Morgan lived there during the first 10 years. Hub lived there during the latter years and the majority of the time.
Maren has lived there on and off and has witnessed all the care and updates that have gone into the place.
"The first thing they did was they removed five layers of linoleum from the kitchen. And then later on, they moved the kitchen," she said. "One time I came home and my walls would be missing. They'd do something like change the closet, and all my clothes would be someplace else."
Whenever possible, the family restored original features while enhancing them whenever they could.
"Because they had a millwork shop they had lots of beautiful new molding that they added," Maren said.
The home had many porches, so swapping out a three-season porch for a mudroom and office added to the home's functionality.
Hub modernized the mechanical systems, updating the insulation and installing a new roof. He also installed high-efficiency boilers and new windows and updated the electrical system and plumbing.
"Hub has done a remarkable job with maintenance of the home and updating it," Smith said. "He's done the experienced but tedious work of updating systems while preserving the really beautiful character and qualities that make the home so special."
Maren said the family is downsizing, and Hub is spending more time at his other home in Grand Marais.
With so many updates over the years, the family hopes that anyone moving into it can just enjoy it.
One of her favorite features is the manicured garden. "They had all these arborvitae trees put in around it," Maren said. "No one can see it from the outside. It's very private, and that's part of the mystique."
Other highlights include six fireplaces, 10-foot ceilings and large windows that bring in an abundance of natural light. Original and custom details can be seen throughout, including built-in cabinets and bay windows.
There are plenty of bonus spaces, too, such as a porch, balcony, sunroom and exercise room. Two apartments are on the third floor, while a third unit is located on the garden level.
To say the primary bedroom is spacious would be an understatement. At more than 900 square feet, the bedroom includes a lounge, wet bar, den, two fireplaces, a walk-in closet, an en suite and a private balcony.
In total, the home has four suites of bedrooms with private bathrooms, and most have walk-in closets.
Smith said anyone living in the home, just a few doors from the James J. Hill House, will be living in one of the grand estates along Summit Avenue that has been carefully thought out.
"It's a remarkable property and a home that has been cherished for many years, and it's evident. When you walk through the home, you can really see how the wallpaper and light patterns work together and all these motifs kind of move from room to room," he said. "It's one great composition."
Michael Smith (651-324-6211; firstname.lastname@example.org) has the $2.375 million listing.