Samuel J. Hewson House, Minneapolis

Hewson House

Please note that the following is an edited text as of November 2, 2011.  PAM thanks members Diane Montgomery and Bob Glancy for bringing errors and omissions to our attention and for providing a more complete accounting of the Samuel J. Hewson House’s preservation story.  We sincerely apologize for neglecting to recognize the significant contribution of individuals, including Star Tribune reporter Jon Tevlin, to the success of this project as part of this 2011 Community Effort Award.

In the spring of 2010, Minneapolis’ Whittier neighborhood was in the process of being surveyed to identify significant historic properties.  One property they identified for further study was the Samuel J. Hewson House, a jewel in Minneapolis’ Whittier neighborhood.  Designed by Kees and Colburn, interior decoration by John S. Bradstreet, and built by local contractor T.P. Healy in 1905, this property had an architectural pedigree to rival those on Summit Avenue.

But, this jewel was soon in jeopardy.  The owners of the Hewson House had both a first and second mortgage with TCF Bank on the property totaling about $500,000 and had reportedly fallen behind on payments.  They commissioned auctioneers Piccadilly Estate and Moving to hold an auction on June 12-13, 2009; however, auction goers found not only their furnishings on the block, but decorative features of the house itself including the stained glass front door, fireplace surround, paneling, and the dining room mural.  Told that the owners were “remodeling,” several auction attendees knew something was not quite right about the sale.

Thanks to the quick action of a dedicated group of local preservationists, neighborhood activists, and the media, this landmark’s story turned around quickly.  Preservation advocate Madeline Douglass attended the sale and alerted others about disposition of the building interior.  Star Tribune  reporter Jon Tevlin was also there that weekend and wrote an early piece that called the auction into question.  Realtor Bob Glancy researched the property and contacted fellow advocate Diane Montgomery, who alerted mortgage holder TCF Bank to the sale.  TCF Bank filed an injunction based on the potential loss of the property’s value, had the locks changed before auctioned property could be claimed, and installed a security system.  The bank negotiated the property owners, who had abandoned the house, and took possession as sole owners.  (Despite the presence of a security system, the fireplace mural disappeared has not been located.)

Local advocates worked hard over the next several months to protect the property while locating a preservation-minded buyer.  Glancy was awarded the listing and marketed the property as a single-family dwelling, despite its zoning potential for new, multi-unit housing.  Douglass submitted a local landmark designation nomination to the City of Minneapolis, supported by the Whittier Alliance, and further pursued by Whittier Councilmember Robert Lilligren.  Acceptance of the nomination by the Minneapolis Heritage Preservation Commission secured interim protection for the Hewson House until its full designation in April of 2011.  The Preservation Alliance of Minnesota listed the Hewson House on its 2010 10 Most Endangered Historic Places List to encourage publicity to find a buyer.

The 10 Most listing caught the attention of Gary Kirt, president of Bell Mortgage, and a Preservation Alliance of Minnesota member.  Gary negotiated a discounted purchase of the property with TCF Bank in order to prevent further deterioration and to financially allow for needed repairs to bring the Hewson House up to code for a further discounted sale.  Re/MAX Results donated real estate services to place the home on the 2011 Minneapolis – St. Paul Home Tour, where it was first in attendance amongst 55 homes.  The plan worked; a couple purchased the property in spring of 2011.  The new owners plan to restore the Hewson House as a single-family home with the help of the owner’s preservation contracting business.  Thanks to the collaboration of many individuals and organizations, the Samuel J. Hewson House will continue to shine as one of Minneapolis’ fine historic jewels.

Community participants: Madeline Douglass, Jon Tevlin, Star Tribune; Bob Glancy; Diane Montgomery; Ryan Knoke; Montana Scheff; Brian Finstad; Gary Kirt, Bell Mortgage; Whittier Alliance; Re/MAX Results; Councilmember Robert Lilligren; Minneapolis Heritage Preservation Commission; Minneapolis Historic Homeowners Association; Preserve Minneapolis