For more than a decade, when Sarah Dye and her husband, John Coulter, went for walks in their Como neighborhood in St. Paul, they would admire a house on Nebraska Avenue that stood out. It was the house with a tower, arched windows, decorative brackets and half-circle driveway.
"It was so different from all the other houses around," said Dye. "It's just so much older. Most of the other houses around there are probably 1920s or later. It's this Italianate style that's much more Victorian looking, and it just sort of looked like a fairytale house."
When the house, built in 1872, went on the market four years ago, the couple didn't miss the opportunity to snap it up. It wasn't until they moved in that they understood how widespread its appeal was.
"Any time I was working in the front yard, someone would stop by and ask about the house. It was a fun way to get to know the neighbors. They were thrilled and thanked us for taking care of the house," Dye said. "Others would ask when it was built. Some were curious about the tower and if there was an actual room."
While living there, they found out more and more about the house's history and were glad to share. As far as the tower?
"It is not really much of a room. It's a very small space," Dye said.
A rich history
They learned about the house through research at the Minnesota Historical Society, newspaper articles and from the previous owner, who "had talked to the descendants of those who lived there," Dye said.
The house is known as the Hoyt-Hazzard house, named for original owners Hannah Hoyt Hazzard, who was from a prominent St. Paul family after which Hoyt Avenue is named, and her husband, George Hazzard, a Ramsey County commissioner instrumental in securing the Minnesota State Fairgrounds and creating Interstate State Park on the Minnesota and Wisconsin border.
After the Hazzards lived there, the house changed hands several times. According to a 2018 Park Bugle article, in the early 1950s the house was owned by the newly formed North Como Presbyterian Church and services were held there. At one point when the house changed hands, it was converted into a duplex.
And before Coulter and Dye bought the house, the previous owners ran it as a bed and breakfast before returning it to a single-family home. They restored the home, including creating a replica of the original tower.
"The tower was torn down at one point," said Dye. "I have an old picture from the 1980s where there wasn't a tower at all. The porch and balcony had been enclosed and made into rooms, so he turned those back into a lovely porch and balcony."
Adding fine details
Dye and Coulter added their own stamp to the house, enlisting contractors and designers to update the mechanics and do a major makeover of the kitchen.
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"They ripped out everything and put in brand new appliances, quartz [countertops], maple cupboards with a cherry finish. There's a sliding ladder to reach the cupboards on top. There are tiles up along the wall behind the stove so it doesn't get all yucked up," Dye said. "The designer just put in a lot of fine details that make a difference."
In one design-savvy bathroom update, whimsical overhead lighting illuminates the wallpaper, a botanical motif that was an original design of famed Arts and Crafts textile designer William Morris.
On the exterior, the couple had the house repainted, changing the color from a deep brown mauve to pale lavender. Contractors painted the porches and put in new floors in one that was in disrepair.
"There were these Italianate details around the windows, and a lot of the pieces had broken off," Dye added. "They basically made new ones, and it looks so much nicer."
Passing the torch
The family is downsizing, so the couple recently put the five-bedroom, four-bathroom, 2,500-square-foot house on the market.
Listing agent Reed Aronow said the house's listing provides a unique opportunity. "This is one of the most iconic homes in all of Como Park," he said.
It's also on a rare oversized lot.
Dye said while it was the house itself that drew her and her family in, they fell in love with the yard.
"The house is so beautiful, but I ended up loving the yard the most. I started doing a very extensive vegetable garden. Last year, I grew 300 pounds of food," she said. "It was really special to have a huge private backyard in the city."