In the 1930s, the Hamm's brewing family commissioned Clarence Johnston Sr. to build a Georgian Revival in St. Paul on a sprawling 2-acre property.
The picturesque property on Crocus Hill has changed hands infrequently over the years. Now, after three decades, Bonnie and Jim D'Aquila are ready to turn over the property to the fourth generation of homeowners. They've put the 10,000-square-foot, eight-bedroom, eight-bathroom house on the market.
"It will be sad to move out, but on the other hand, it gives someone else the chance to have this wonderful experience," Jim said. "[We moved here because] we were struck by the history of the home. And this yard was extraordinarily private and plentiful."
A history of Minnesota royalty
According to the book "Minnesota Architect: The Life and Work of Clarence H. Johnston" by Paul Clifford Larson, the home was the last known work of Johnston, who died the year the house was built. Its grand scale is in line with other Johnston-designed residences such as the Glensheen Mansion in Duluth and estates on Summit Avenue.
The D'Aquilas have appreciated the rich history of the home, made even richer when the couple, who are active in the arts community, met the original owner.
The home was built for Theodora "Pinkie" Lang, the granddaughter of Hamm's founder Theodore Hamm and the daughter of William Hamm Sr., who succeeded his father in the family business.
Like Pinkie, the D'Aquilas are art lovers and happened to run into her at the Minneapolis Institute of Art.
Pinkie told the couple about the history of the home and how it earned its nickname, the "limo house," for its lavish parties.
"We got to meet her a few times. She's a very gracious person … [her] son sat in the living room and the memories came flooding back," Jim said. "Having the original owner and their children come into our lives just gave it more depth."
Preserving and enhancing
The D'Aquilas kept the home well maintained and also took on major projects over the years.
"The house needed a full restoration — paint, a lot of ceiling repair and reroofing," said Jim. "Over time, we did entirely new mechanicals." Wood finishes, including pecan wood walls and cabinets, were preserved.
The house was built with two distinct areas, one for the family, the other for staff. The couple made the disjointed spaces cohesive and suitable for modern-day living.
The greatest transformation took place in the kitchen, where they expanded and removed walls to create a more open floor plan. The original linoleum asphalt tile was swapped for slate flooring. Top-of-the-line kitchen appliances were installed.
"The whole family is passionate about cooking," Jim said.
Other spaces were transformed as well. A former tailoring room became a study nook for the couple's kids. A former canning room was turned into a wine cellar. In the basement, a sauna was added.
Outdoor spaces were also given some love. The couple added a lanai off the living room and dining room that overlooks the valley and put in a pool.
The English garden was spruced up, as well, with fountains and a greenhouse. They also added a wood-fired pizza oven and terracotta Tuscan grill.
With their children grown, the soon-to-be empty nesters are ready to move on.
"It's time for our next stage in life," Bonnie said.
Listing agent Mike Lynch said the property is remarkable because of its history and its features — from the floor-to-ceiling windows to five wood-burning fireplaces.
"To me, this is a supreme illustration of the work of architect Clarence Johnston and the impact he left on the city of St. Paul," he said. "The sellers of this home have lovingly and thoughtfully brought the property to the next level."
The D'Aquilas said they have loved the house for its grand rooms, which served as the perfect backdrop for things they enjoy.
"It's such a beautiful space to appreciate art," Jim said. "With some of these newer homes with such an open floor plan, the wall space and the artwork are an afterthought."
The estate is also ideal for gatherings.
"We could have so many people over at the same time. This became the center for our family," Bonnie said. "I hope people use [the house] to celebrate family and friendships the way Pinkie did and the way we did."
Mike Lynch (Mike.firstname.lastname@example.org; 612-619-8227) of Lakes Sotheby's International Realty has the $1.85 million listing.