WAYZATA — The Section Foreman House in downtown Wayzata is a tiny step closer to getting on the National Registry of Historic Places.
The Wayzata City Council on June 11 unanimously approved a resolution supporting the city’s Heritage Preservation Board to apply for the registry. Wayzata City Code requires the board to receive consent from the City Council to apply for the historic designation.
Heritage Preservation Board Chair Nate Leding said they’re “really excited about this opportunity,” noting evaluations that have been done on the Section Foreman House show it meets register criteria.
The Section Foreman House stands between the railroad tracks and Lake Minnetonka’s Wayzata Bay, at 738 E. Lake St. It was built in 1902 by the Great Northern Railroad as a place for the section foreman and his family to live. A section foreman was tasked with keeping about 20 miles of railroad in good working order.
Getting on the National Register of Historic Places is more of a ceremonial honor, Leding explained, but said the designation would also open the door to get some federal funding to help repair the Section Foreman House.
“It’s not in good repair right now, but it certainly has a huge opportunity to be,” Leding told the City Council.
The house is in such bad shape that Mayor Ken Willcox jokingly asked Leding if they’d still get the designation if the house falls down. Leding said they probably would have already ordered the plaque, so it could mark where the house used to stand.
Over the years, the house has fallen victim to the elements and vandals. The paint is peeling, the windows are boarded up (vandals threw rocks through all the windows last year) and this spring, the basement had about 2 inches of standing water in it. The Section Foreman House is still standing, but it needs about $25,000 in work to stabilize it while a long-term plan for it can be worked out.
That long-term plan is being figured out by the city, which now owns the Section Foreman House, and the Lake Effect Conservancy — the organization behind the Lake Effect Project to improve the city’s lakefront. The plan could include turning the home into a place for educational programming.
City Manager Jeffrey Dahl told Lakeshore Weekly News via email he planned to discuss the cost of putting a preservation plan together at the City Council’s workshop on Tuesday, June 18, and then have the City Council consider it for approval at its July 2 meeting.
The house’s history
The Section Foreman House does not look exactly as it did when it was built in the early 1900s. Historical records show there were two additions on the home. In the 1940s, the home was lifted to install a concrete foundation and a basement. At that time, the first floor was likely expanded to include a living room and a bedroom on the lake side of the home, records show.
The home was eventually purchased from the railroad in 1962, at which point it is believed the new owner, Charles N. Brooks, added a new entrance on the south side of the house (the original main entrance was on the north side, right on the railroad tracks), as well as added a front porch and expanded the living room.
The city of Wayzata acquired the house in 1988, and has owned the house and property since. For a while, the city rented out the house, but it has sat vacant since the 1990s, only used to store random things like police reserve bicycles and an old ballot counter.