Wolfs call 100-year old house home
WORTHINGTON -- Even after logging more than 30 years in the construction business, Randy Wolf has yet to see a new house he likes better than the place he's called home for the past 18 years.
"We've just enjoyed this house so much," expressed Randy. "Like most older houses, it has a lot of character, and we've always liked the neighborhood."
Therein lies a small piece of irony, for although the Wolfs are celebrating the house's 100th birthday this year, it hasn't always stood at 1325 Fifth Ave. in Worthington.
"Our house was built in 1908 for William and Josephine Thom in Rushmore," explained Kay Wolf, Randy's wife since 1975. "William died in 1926, but Josephine lived there until 1931.
"It seems she was worried that, with the Depression, she wouldn't be able to sell such a house in Rushmore, so she decided to have it moved to Worthington."
One daring drive down old Highway 16/County Road 35 and $1,500 later, Josephine Thom resumed residence in the same house but in its new location on Worthington's Fifth Avenue, where she continued to live until her death in 1957.
A note written by Mrs. Thom's son, Craigen, said the only repair the house needed after its move was the replacement of an 18-inch patch of plaster in the kitchen -- and that on a spot previously exhibiting a crack.
"They jacked up the house, put it on rollers and pulled it using horses," detailed Kay. "At one point, they said it became unhooked from the horses and started rolling down the road by itself, but luckily it rolled straight ahead and didn't crash into the ditch."
In 1990 the Wolfs purchased the house from its second owners, Bob and Evelyn Rayl, who had lived in it since 1957.
"I think they liked us," speculated Kay of the Rayls. "It was a little out of our price range, but the Rayls were very attached to the house, and they must have thought we looked like a couple who would take good care of it for them.
"Plus, we had three girls and a boy, and they had three boys and a girl, so they knew another family would grow up there."
With four bedrooms on the second floor -- three quite spacious and one smaller, which the Wolfs think may have originally harbored a servant -- the house served their active family well. In 1990, with their four children ranging from a toddler to a middle schooler, the Wolfs also relished the wooded, ample backyard -- but found the mostly counter-free kitchen less charming.
"The space above the dishwasher was all the counter area it had," recalled Kay. "We lived with that for 10 years, then we totally redid the kitchen.
"We gutted the kitchen down to the floor joists -- there was a hump in the floor -- and Randy and I did the (backsplash) tile during a twoday snowstorm," said Kay.
A portion of the large pantry that adjoins the kitchen area was turned into a half-bath for main-floor use, while local cabinet maker Glen Lonneman crafted new cabinets for the kitchen that are identical to the original ones lining the pantry.
While many of the improvements made to the home over the last 18 years were, as Kay characterized them, "all those wonderful things you spend a lot of money on that you can't see," the kitchen/pantry/bath project was a very visible and satisfying one, as was the addition of a basement family room (with a gas fireplace) and bathroom several years ago. "We always tried to keep the integrity of the house while making it more functional for us," asserted Randy.
Still, it's the 100-year-old home's original features that are most delightful and pleasing to the Wolfs,who have been active in the Worthington Historic District Association.
Having discovered the
house's original blueprints rolled into a box of wallpaper in the attic, the Wolfs know it was designed by Luverne architect W. E. E. Greene and cost approximately $8,500 to construct.
That sum bought oak woodwork -- including a plate rail around the dining room walls -- throughout the first floor, maple woodwork on the second floor, a leaded glass window in the front door, a built-in, fulllength leaded bevel mirror in the foyer, four handcarved solid wood pocket doors and a large walk-up attic, among other unique features.
The Wolfs preserved the original, gold-toned wallpaper in the foyer and stairwell, and on the landing to the second floor is an arched window before which the family positions a decorated Christmas tree each December.
"With only three owners, the woodwork has never needed to be redone," commented Kay.
Serendipity played a role in the location of least one other household treasure. Randy stumbled upon the dining room's original light fixture in the attic, but one of the five globes was chipped. While in Milwaukee, Wis., for their son Matt's wedding, Kay scoured secondhand stores and antique shops searching for a replacement and was about to give up on the mission when she by chance located -- one identical globe.
"We'd better never break another one," laughed Kay. When the Wolfs' youngest daughter, Karri, marries in November, all four of their children will be wed and officially out of the house. Eldest daughter, Carolyn, lives with her husband and three children in Broken Arrow, Okla.; son Matt and his wife live in Carol Stream, Ill.; and daughter Nadine and her husband live in Concord, N.C.
"We fill 'er up pretty good now when the kids all come home, but there is room," remarked Kay. "I think they'd be pretty upset if we moved.
"We used to talk about having Randy someday build us a new house, but once we found this one and put all the work into it, we don't have any desire to move into anything new. It's comfortable, it's just the way we want it and it's home."