A 111-year-old house in Wayzata built by one of the lakeside town’s first residents and leaders is being rescued and given a second life.

The house was lifted up last week and moved on the lot to make room for construction of a subdivision. It next will be moved a mile across Wayzata in early August.

“It’s absolute serendipity,” developer K.C. Chermak said of being able to save the house. “I’m certainly not doing this for the money, but for the good of the community. It’s worth the fight.”

The house was slated to be torn down if no one stepped up to buy it, prompting residents and preservationists to plead with the city and developer to intervene earlier this year.

The two-story house was built in 1904 by Thomas Wise, a boat maker who once worked for railroad pioneer James J. Hill and went on to help lead the growing town in the 1880s. It’s one of 43 homes the Wayzata Historical Society designated as Centennial homes and one of six houses left from 1904, according to the group.

More than a century later, it remains on a densely wooded 0.7-acre lot some 300 yards from Lake Minnetonka.

“You don’t save too many [historic houses]; they get torn down pretty fast,” said Irene Stemmer, a longtime resident who is on the Historical Society board. “I’m very proud we’re going to save it.”

Tim Foster of the The Partners Group is buying the house and moving it about a mile to commercial property at 222 Minnetonka Av. S. He said he’ll use the house as a conference room and event space.

“We are excited to save part of the history of Wayzata,” Foster said via e-mail, thanking the historical society and the city for helping make it happen.

Chermak added in an interview that Foster has “this huge heart for community and Wayzata. [He’s] keeping something historic and maybe it will last for another 100 years.”

A long history

It’s not the only historic house being saved from demolition in the metro area. In Chaska, the 131-year-old Ernst/Riedele House was moved a few blocks this summer to make way for redevelopment, with the city planning to restore the house and sell or lease it. And in Anoka, a 19th century house was sold for $1 and moved down the street last year.

In Wayzata, when Chermak, president of Plymouth-based Pillar Homes and a Wayzata resident, first announced his plans for a subdivision off Central Avenue South and Wise Avenue, he said the Wise house couldn’t stay because it was without a foundation and the subdivision wouldn’t meet city variances. But preservationists spoke out at city meetings, saying that the house was significant to Wayzata not just for its architecture but because of who lived there.

“It’s part of our history; it’s part of where we came from,” said Merrily Borg Babcock, who lives in a home also built in 1904 in the neighborhood, where two homes from the era have been torn down. “There’s a rich history about Wayzata.”

After serving in the Civil War, Wise moved to St. Paul and then Wayzata in 1876 to work for Hill. He left to start Wise Boat Works where the Wayzata Yacht Club is now and became one of the first city leaders when Wayzata became an official village in the 1880s.

He was then appointed its first street commissioner before there were even streets, the city’s lamp lighter and president of the village board.

Next steps

In June, the city gave permitting approvals and, now, the Wise House will be lifted on wheels and moved in the early morning hours on a day in early August, making way for construction, which has already started on one of three houses in the subdivision.

The Wise House will also get a new foundation and a face-lift, in need of new siding and windows. A plaque is slated to go outside of the house, explaining its significance in the community.

“We’re just pleased it’s not gone,” said Sue Sorrentino, who’s on the historical society board and the city’s Heritage Preservation Board. “That’s going to be some living history for people to see.”

 

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