EDINA, Minn. — There is more to a home than its square footage and how much it last sold for. Now, an ambitious project is adding a story to the search for a new home by allowing everyone to explore its history.
The website is HouseNovel.com, created by Edina native Amanda Zielike and husband David Decker, and it’s aim is to add a backstory to a home. The site invites visitors to search a specific address, explore what used to be on that plot of land, read about any historical information related to the address and if they have one, input their own story.
Amanda says a desire for preserving land, buildings, and home history along with a visit to her mother-in-law is how the project started.
“We were going through old photos of her old home and she was just glowing telling all these stories,” Amanda said.
That got the couple thinking of all the untold stories and old photos collecting dust in people’s basements, and how they wanted to preserve those treasured memories. Now their user-generated website that combines home photos, stories, and information on an interactive timeline has over 17,000 records from across the country, with about 10,000 of those local to Minnesota.
When a user adds photos, documents or personal stories from a property the contributions automatically populate a timeline. Some, like the former Forepaugh’s Restaurant in St. Paul, have multiple contributors.
There are news clippings from the late 1800’s and photos showing the building as a private residence, apartments and finally the restaurant. “It’s really a powerful testament to show how homes show so much more than just a building structure, it has so many memories and it’s a community builder in itself."
Or the quirky story of Dorothy Molter, who had the last private resident in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area, and was affectionately known as the "Root Beer Lady." She started making her own root beer and would hand it out to anyone paddling by in a canoe.
Her cabins are still preserved today at the Dorothy Molter Museum in Ely, and her root beer can still be bought in the northern region – bet you would have never thought that if you stayed at her place.
Then there are stories that tug at the heart. Like a photo of a man and woman in front of a house that has long since been torn down. Turns out the house was built by that very man - now his son is grateful that his father’s handywork can be seen by anyone who ever lived there, and who may live in the new home, right now, on that very piece of property.
Amanda feels those photos and stories are the best way to capture the moments that make a house a home. “I think the biggest thing is people want to share their stories throughout the course of their life,” she said.
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