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Gutting a home and starting from scratch is a big feat for anyone, but for Colleen Doran it was an exciting opportunity to design a home for her and her husband exactly how she imagined.

She focused on making the 6,325-square-foot home on the edge of downtown Stillwater more cohesive, adding luxurious updates while preserving the historical home's character. The earliest tax record for the house is 1878 and is listed as the year the house was built. However, local historians believe it was built as early as 1858.

At one point in the house's history, it became two homes with the front part leased out. The spaces lacked flow when the couple moved in 2½ years ago.

They knocked down walls, took out one of two staircases and connected the second-level living areas, she said. The renovations opened up the space.

Now, views of the lush green St. Croix River Valley can be enjoyed from several places throughout the North Hill neighborhood home, just steps away from Pioneer Park. There are also views of the historic Stillwater Lift Bridge, the St. Croix Crossing bridge and nearby marina.

"It's great to be able to stand here in the middle of so many rooms and spaces and feel the flow and movement," Doran said. "Standing here I can see [outside in] all four directions, the trees, flowers and water. It's a remarkable space to be in."


The home has been renovated many times. Doran had loved remodeling her previous houses and was up to the challenge.

In the foyer, she designed a compass with black and silver tiles. "This house sits on the lot at exactly due north. You walk in and you're at exactly north and I wanted to honor that," she said. "I know someone who built it was careful to have the [entryway] point north."

Many of the walls and ceilings were torn out, replaced and reinsulated. The couple added steel beams to ensure that the structure would hold together, now that the two homes were joined into one.

But with all the improvements, Doran and Smith made sure that the new materials they introduced would complement the home's historic nature. For example, new millwork was careful to match existing door frames and wallboards.

They also updated the home for modern-day living. That's especially evident in the kitchen, which is now fit for a chef. There are two of just about every appliance: refrigerators, sinks, ovens and even dishwashers.

"My husband is a chef; he's worked in so many kitchens. He said no matter where he goes he's going to build his kitchens exactly like this," she said. "It's so easy to cook in and to plate everything up and send it out."

On the move

Now, although it's bittersweet, the couple have decided to say goodbye to their five-bedroom, seven-bath home. With their children and grandchildren in Minneapolis, the couple want to move closer to them.

Listing agent Abby Dean said the place is a "storybook" property with the perfect blend of modern and historic.

"The owners did a tremendous job redesigning and renovating the home to the highest level and luxury," Dean said. "It has spacious and gracious living spaces that flow beautifully for entertaining and everyday enjoyment."

In addition, she said, the sprawling property is one of the largest lots near downtown Stillwater, consisting of 1.7 acres that include breathtaking gardens and private woods.

Numerous outdoor spaces provide an ideal setting for entertaining many guests — Doran hosted her daughter's wedding reception. Outdoor features include a large fire pit, a seating area near a small natural waterfall and a hidden fairy-like garden that has a one-room treehouse. Then there's the dry stack limestone walls that line the property, giving it flair, Doran said.

Doran said she can't take credit for all of the landscaping. Much of it was built upon over the years by previous owners. She believes 150 of the 200 plants were planted in the past 50 to 75 years.

There are also beautiful lilies in at least 15 colors. "We have tiger lilies — bright pink and yellow ones," Doran said. "The other day we saw these pale pink ones with red dots."

Abby Dean (; 651-430-2100) of Coldwell Banker Realty has the $1.9 million listing.

Correction: Previous versions of this story misidentified the year the home was built.