Guest Editorial: Winter 2002

It was a noisy summer and fall in our neighborhood. Hammers and saws, and large trucks delivering building materials punctuated the air with sound. The thwack, thwack, thwack of our neighbor nailing on siding, the whine of a circular saw biting into a fresh pine stud, and the low rumble of a diesel truck pulling up just down the street created an irresistible concert. I just had to stroll down the sidewalk at night to see what was accomplished that day!

Such was the scene throughout the Macalester-Groveland neighborhood and many other neighborhoods in Minneapolis and St. Paul. I don’t think there was a block that didn’t have one or two dumpsters on it this summer. If it wasn’t a new roof, it was a new kitchen or a remodeled basement or some other makeover.

My wife and I added to all this activity by tackling our three-season porch. We gutted the interior and discovered what the previous owners had covered up–a bead-board ceiling and a painted wood floor.

All of this got me thinking about my hometown of Lanesboro. Those of you familiar with this tourist town in southeast Minnesota may be scratching your heads wondering what sort of connection one could make between Lanesboro and remodeling bungalows. Well, bear with me.

Much of what Lanesboro is today was created in the late 1800s. I could be wrong, but I think you’d be hard pressed to find more than a handful of bungalows in town. Most of the older homes are Victorians, while the rest were built after WW II. The town just didn’t seem to build many new homes during the years from 1900 to1950.

In 1980 when I left for college, Lanesboro was like many small towns. Its good old days were in the past. The economic prosperity that had built the town had long since moved elsewhere. Mainstreet businesses were drying up, and a remodeling project was rare.

It took an outsider to recognize that Lanesboro’s stagnation was also the raw ingredient for a quaint, tourist village with antiques, artisans and attractive shops set in a turn-of-the century downtown. All those years of slow or no economic growth had preserved Lanesboro’s architecture and, as it turns out, its value.

In some ways our homes, especially our bungalows, are like Lanesboro. They were built just before the Depression and have spent decades patiently waiting for caring souls to discover them and give them new life.

Prosperity has returned to Lanesboro, and also to us, the bungalow owners of the Twin Cities. We have the opportunity to preserve, rehabilitate, restore, or reconstruct a vital and valuable part of our communities-our homes. Are we making choices today that will invigorate our neighborhoods? Are dumpsters on every block a good thing?

I am both thankful that we have the financial ability to save these glorious old bungalows and concerned about what we may be losing. Not every bungalow is historically precious nor does every home have to be restored to some arbitrary standard of historical accuracy.

What I hope for is that every time a bungalow is remodeled, the owners have given serious thought to the possibility of restoring some of its charm or not destroying the charm that’s there. That’s an awfully big, somewhat vague hope. But, I’m from Lanesboro and I’ve seen what a handful of people can accomplish.

This club of ours can help educate bungalow owners about their remodeling options. We sponsor seminars, house tours and other opportunities for bungalow owners to learn from one another. But, there are only a few hundred of us in this club, a number that pales in comparison to all those dumpsters. I encourage each of you to talk to at least one other bungalow owner about the benefits of membership. As you’ll read elsewhere in this issue, this club is on the move. Let us bring more people to join us as we advance.

—- Marty Moen, board member