As those of you who know me personally are aware, my grandmother, Beverly VanderEyk, passed away on Sunday. My grandma holds a special place in my heart; she was a kind and loving woman who always had a smile on her face when I walked through the door. Grandma was there with me during some of the most important moments in my life. She was there to cradle me when I was baptized, there to see me off to prom, there to celebrate birthdays, holidays, graduations and the purchase of my first home. One of my favorite moments was showing her a home design I drew for a project in school while studying for my Associate’s degree. I would later receive an award for the floor plan and the home was constructed just a few short blocks from where my grandma lived. I was so proud to bring her to that house and show her my little floor plan had become a reality. It’s difficult to imagine a world without my grandma; I’m still struggling to comprehend it. I decided to dedicate November’s blog post to Grandma Bev and write a little bit about the house my dad grew up in… the house I spent many a Christmases, Thanksgivings and Easters in… the house that my grandma called home.
About a year ago I was given an assignment for one of my graduate school courses. I needed to choose a subject property to research and complete a nomination form for listing on the National Register of Historic Places. The property had to be one which I had access to, was greater than 50 years old and relatively simple in design. It seemed obvious to do the project on my grandma’s house, a 1915 foursquare in St. Cloud.
The home was constructed for the family of Hugh Gallagher, an Engineer for the Great Northern Railroad. It is located just two blocks from a train switch yard and was built on land originally platted by Anton Edelbrock. At best I can tell Edelbrock purchased the land around the same time construction of the railroad began. Perhaps he thought it was a good investment, foreseeing a boost in development to follow the completion of the railroad. Things wouldn’t quite work out that way, however, the railroad cutting through St. Cloud east to west was completed by 1880, but Edelbrock’s Addition wouldn’t see development until after 1910.
One of the first homes to be built in the addition, Hugh Gallagher’s home was constructed in the “foursquare” style, a simple box shape with a full-width front porch. The style was most popular during the late 1800’s through the 1920’s, a period of time also characterized by the Arts and Crafts Movement which influenced home design in Minnesota and throughout the country. Homes were constructed to reflect their environment, often including local materials and handcrafted details. During this time, more so than ever before, homes were given a personal touch and displayed the taste of their owners. For the first time, emphasis was placed on not only the exterior design of the home, but the homes interiors and the continuity between the two. The interior designer began to arise as a respectable professional and a partner to the architect. The Arts and Crafts Movement was not localized to the wealthy elite; instead it was the emerging middle class that would be at its forefront. The notion of developing a home design around a family’s lifestyle rather than formal traditions changed residential construction. The Victorian “parlor” gave way to a family room that flowed harmoniously into a dining room. Open floor plans bolstered family gatherings and the link between a home’s design and a family’s well-being was emphasized. All of these elements are throughout the home that my dad grew up in – from the large staircase with its oak balustrade and paneling; to its meticulously detailed built-ins, open family and dining rooms, this house is a simple, yet beautiful example of the homes built during this era.
The Gallagher family resided at the home for nearly thirty years and ownership has only changed a total of four times with the most recent residents, my grandparents, owning the home since 1953. They made a few changes over the course of 61 years; the front and back porches, which were once open, are now enclosed, the original clapboard replaced by asbestos siding, some windows have been replaced and carpet covers the original hardwood floors.
This house is special to many. Not just for its built-in cabinets, detailed leaded glass windows or five-panel oak doors. It is where cousins chased each other up and down the stairs, stopping only to peer through the balustrade and spy on the goings-on in the living room below. It’s where our grandma snuck us Smarties from her candy jar by the back door, as if our parents were completely unaware. It’s where we spent Christmases grappling over the order of which we should each open our presents, only to give up and have everyone open them all at once. And it’s where I hugged my grandma for the last time as she wished me well on my trip to Boston for my graduate school commencement ceremony.
That’s the thing about buildings; they are so much more than four walls and a roof. They are gathering places where lifelong connections are fostered and memories are made. You see, preservation isn’t just about the beautiful mansion that was built for some aristocrat, it’s about houses like Grandma Bev’s. I encourage you to think buildings that have played an important role in your life. Take the time to visit them, take photographs and share your memories with loved ones. I look back on that day I spent walking through my grandma’s house, talking about the family she raised there, with great affection.
Thank you for always supporting me, Grandma Bev. I promise to continue moving forward and I hope I’ll make you proud. I love you and miss you.
Until next time…