Saturday, October 26, 2013

Researching the History of Our House

I was able to head down to the library downtown and do some research on our sweet little house.  I didn't get a whole lot more information than what I was already able to find using regular online searches and  But I was able to have the permit cards for our property right in my hand and see when and what was done on the property since 1901!

Part of our property's permit card - dating from 1901


The city directories were also a lot of fun.  Lots of those are archived on, but you have to be looking for the correct name.  When you're looking directly in the book, you can look up the address.  And that's helpful because the names are sometimes misspelled, or just spelled differently from year to year.

1950 City Directory

Charles Olek worked at the Pillsbury Mill downtown - 1939

As you might imagine, there aren't usually pictures and a lot of historic information on private residences, unless they were significant in some way.  Since our house is just a 1950s same-old-same-old, there weren't any pictures of our house, just the permit cards and directory listings.

What I was able to find a lot about was our neighborhood.  Ever since we bought the house, I wondered about the big building across the street.  It's apartments now, but it doesn't look like that's what it was from the beginning.  And we've met one of our neighbors who lives there and he says he thinks his apartment used to be a gymnasium.  So I looked for the building and the librarians brought me 3 huge envelopes that were bursting with newspaper clippings.  Turns out the building used to be the Margaret Barry Settlement House, up until the 1970s or so.  What's a settlement house?  Since the Northeast neighborhoods were largely settled by immigrants, settlement houses were a place to gather and find resources.  From what I read on the Margaret Barry House, there were English, typing, and parenting classes; job and living resources; preschool and childrens' education; and frequent dances and gatherings for the teenagers of the neighborhood.

Margaret Barry House - 1925

Article on the Margaret Barry House - 1932

I also found a really cool photo of the building where a couple of our good friends live, just a mile or two down the road from us.  It was built by the Cream of Wheat company for the offices and factory, I believe, and it has been converted into very cool lofts. 

Names of people who have previously owned our property:
        Lucy Doyle and Edward J Doyle  (1901-1910)
        Vincent and Sophia Fanzig, Charles and Sophia Olek  (1931-1943)
        Angelo and Conjate Cremisino  (1943-1945)
        Charles A Pettis  (1945-1946)
        Didrick J Orfield, John F Sandstrom  (1946)
        Kenneth A Chase  (1946-1949)
        Hope A Quinn (1949-1951)
        Frank J & Rose M Flanigan  (1951-1971) - they built our house
        Harold L Fletcher (1971-1979)
        Paul Wesley Irwin & Diane E McKay-Irwin  (1979-1999)

1865 City Directory

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