One Owner, Two Addresses and Three Designs

June 30, 2013

10.5 miles Highland Park

Vikki Bleise’s home at 550 Montcalm Place

Vikki Bleise’s home at 550 Montcalm Place

The house at 550 Montcalm fits perfectly in its Highland Park neighborhood. Although there is no way to tell from looking at it, the house has a remarkable history that began about a mile away.

The Bleiss home on its original lot at 1655 West 7th Street.

The Bleise home on its original lot at 1655 West 7th Street. Courtesy Vikki Bleise

According to Vikki Bleise, her Dad built the house in 1952 at 1655 West Seventh, a corner lot at West Seventh and Vista Avenue. Once completed, Vikki and her parents moved into the house from an apartment building owned by her grandfather on another corner of West Seventh and Vista. The Bleise family lived in the house until 1962 when the State of Minnesota used eminent domain to take the property, and with it the house, as part of the Interstate 35E project.

Said Vikki, “My dad decided he really wanted to keep the house because it was only about 10 years old so he bought the house back from the state of Minnesota.”

The Bleises purchased three pieces of property in different Saint Paul neighborhoods with the plan to move the house to one of them. They picked the lot at 550 Montcalm Place, a choice that initially caused a rift with some neighbors. Vikki house 2“The neighbors in the neighborhood didn’t want the house moved in here because this was too exclusive of a  street to have a house from West Seventh Street … But ultimately the house came.”

Vikki said her Dad quickly won over the folks along Montcalm Place by taking exceptional care of the house and yard.

House moving day was Halloween 1962. Vikki chuckled as she talked about that time, “I remember my mom was really spooked because she thought for sure some ghost was going to abscond with the house or something. It was just too ominous to move a house on Halloween.”

Halloween fell on Saturday in ’62 and Saturday night and Sunday morning were the only times power lines could be moved and roads closed to move a house.

Vikki’s parents added a two-car garage to the house as part of the move and over the years, did two additions. The first was a kitchen bump-out in the late ‘60s and later, Vikki’s small bedroom was enlarged and a bathroom built to create a new master suite.

When Vikki grew up, she moved to Edina where she lived for 30 years. Her father died unexpectedly and as the only child, she inherited the family home. About that time, she adopted two miniature dachshunds but the kitchen of her town home was being remodeled so she brought the dogs to live in Saint Paul until construction was finished. Two of her closest friends threw her a “doggie shower” and that’s when Vikki knew the old family house would be her home. “They came over one night for dinner shortly after I had gotten the dogs and we were sitting in the kitchen. Suddenly I knew that was where I was going to live. There was just something that said, ‘This is where you belong.’ It was an emotional feeling that I was called to move back to my house. This is where I would find joy.”

Vikki with her two dogs. Courtesy Vikki Bleise

Vikki with her two dogs, Ludwig, left, and Elise, right. Courtesy Vikki Bleise

That decision meant remodeling the house. The footprint of the house wasn’t changed but the entire first floor was stripped to the studs; the kitchen became living room, the dining room morphed into the kitchen, three small bedrooms were transformed into the master suite and the front door was moved.

vikki house 3

The basement library with furniture that belonged to Vikki’s parents and was in the home for years.

With all that is new in the house, there remain many connections to the past. Decorative hardware and light fixtures were reused, old ceiling beams hang in the library and all but six pieces of furniture are either Vikki’s or her parents’.

Vikki opted to move back into the house on December 24, 2010, “This was really a gift my parents had given me and so I was going to move in on Christmas Eve.”

Vikki house 4

Vikki’s finely manicured back yard. Some of her gardens are in the background.

Vikki house 4

A better look at a couple of Vikki’s gardens.

With little work to do inside, you’ll often find Vikki working in her picturesque gardens or entertaining in her one owner, two address, three design home.

montcalm ct 1Between the uncommon street sign and post and the tiny spit of park land in its midst, Montcalm Court demonstrates stately character.A bench is conveniently located in the park.

A bench is conveniently located on the grassy island.

Most of the houses on the three block span of Edgcumbe Road south of Highland Parkway and east of Hamline Avenue vary between sizable and expansive with an assortment of architecture (some of which is notable) and age.

1565 Edgcumbe

The Robert Ahrens house, 1565 Edgcumbe Road, built in 1938, was designed by Magnus Jemne of Saint Paul.

The estate at 1590 Edgcumbe has to be among the largest yards in Highland, if not Saint Paul. Past residents include the former head of Cray Research who was nominated for the U.S. Deputy Secretary of Commerce in the Clinton Administration and the disgraced former owner of a travel agency.

Estate 1

1590 Edgcumbe. Between the flora-covered bushes along the fence and the distance from Edgcumbe to the house, you can barely see the residence.

A slightly better but still obscured view of 1566 Edgcumbe.

A slightly better but still obscured view of 1590 Edgcumbe Road.

The roof is melting. The unusual roof and design of 7 Edgcumbe Place conjure up thoughts of Hansel and Gretel.

The roof is melting. The unusual roof and design of 7 Edgcumbe Place conjures up thoughts of Hansel and Gretel or Shrek.

Renovation of the War Memorial on Edgcumbe Road is getting close to completion.

edgcumbe memorial 1

A bit of stone work and landscaping and an American flag will complete the memorial.

edgcumbe memorial 2

The plaque on one side of the War Memorial.

Built as Edgcumbe School in 1939, the building at 768 Hamline now is home to a charter school and a private school.

The expression “study in contrasts” is overused but this school really is; from the divergent ages and styles of the two building wings to the two schools inside.

The expression “study in contrasts” is overused but this school really is; from the divergent ages and styles of the building’s wings to the two schools inside.

Art deco elements of the original building, designed by Cap Wiggington, are easily spotted top to bottom.

Art deco elements of the original building, designed by Cap Wigington, are easily spotted top to bottom.

edgcumbe 5

The entrance to Talmud Torah School on the north side of the building.

The cornerstone of the former Edgcumbe School.

The cornerstone of the former Edgcumbe School.

The distinctive contemporary house at 1316 Bohland Place was designed and built by architect Donald Haarstick in 1955, according to Larry Millett’s AJA Guide to the Twin Cities.

Haarstick 1Two of the most intriguing features of the home are the curved brick fence (above) and the patio covered by a metal roof (below.)

haaarstick 2

Highland National 1Highland National Golf Course is one of two 18 hole links owned and operated by the City. It is bounded by Montreal Avenue on the south, Highland Parkway to the north, Snelling on the west and Hamline to the east. Looking for a lesser challenge? A nine-hole “executive” course is across the street on the south side of Montreal.

The clubhouse at Highland National golf course is another design from the pencil of City architect Cap Wigington.

The distinguished-looking clubhouse at Highland National Golf Course is another design from the pencil of City architect Cap Wigington.

Note the classic lines and curves of the windows and the roofline and the pillars. It’s difficult to tell from this shot but the pavilion is in need of some renovation.)

Note the classic lines and curves of the windows and the roof line and the pillars. It’s difficult to tell from this shot but the pavilion is in need of renovation.

The ivy covered windows on the east side of the pavilion.

The ivy covered windows on the east side of the pavilion.

Charlie Brown, from the very popular and fun “Peanuts on Parade” event about 15 years ago, greets all who tee off at Highland National.

Charlie Brown, from the very popular and delightful “Peanuts on Parade” event about 15 years ago, greets all who tee off at Highland National.

The recently completed storage facility intentionally displays a strong resemblance to the Wigington-designed clubhouse. It is said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

The recently completed storage facility intentionally displays a strong resemblance to the Wigington-designed clubhouse. It is said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery but I’m guessing Cap Wigington would find faults with this.

This striking church re-opened in March 2005 as Lumen Christi Catholic, the result of the merger of three nearby churches. Originally called St. Leo’s, it opened in 1965.

lumen 1

The most prominent feature of Lumen Christi Catholic Church on Cleveland Avenue and Bohland is the octagonal chapel.

Some final thoughts:

  • Moving a house to a new location is a combination of engineering, physics, brawn and finesse.
  • Cap Wigington’s architecture is plentiful in the Highland Park area.
  • Edgcumbe Road is not at the same architectural level as Summit Avenue but it features many outstanding examples of design.

Click on the link to view the map of today’s ride:

http://www.mapmyride.com/routes/view/260587561

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