Thursday, August 14, 2008

Original Building Permit

I've lucked out in researching the history of my house.

In Minnesota, when you buy a house, in most cases you receive an Abstract that details each and every owner of the parcel of land through history. Mine starts when the United States sold off parts of Fort Snelling back in 1856. So, with the exception of the original Native American owners, I essentially have a collection of the names of every owner of my parcel of land from the US government to present day.

Shortly after I moved into my house, my neighbors across the street mentioned to me that they had photos of my house dating back to the 1930s and asked me if I wanted a copy.

Then the neighbor that lives next to me told me he had a photo of my house's entryway from the 1980's and gave me a copy.

Last summer I was reading through a neighborhood paper and read an article written by a neighbor historian about one of the founding fathers of the city and his trend setting daughters. The guy's name rand a bell, so I pulled out my Abstract and sure enough he was the original owner of my property back in 1856.

Then last fall, I was out of town for work and in a very strange coincidence ran into a former friend of a PO of my house. She was able to provide me with a few more photos and lots of details about my house circa 1990-2000 .

This brings us to yesterday. I decided it would be nice to have the original building permit & perhaps the name of the builder. In Minneapolis they have set up a "311" phone line that you can call for just about any city related topic. I thought that might be a good place to try. I was right. The 311 operator did a quick search of her database and discovered a bunch of permits on file dating back to 1923. She gave me the phone number of the person in charge of the microfiche and within 24 hrs I was emailed a copy of the entire permit file for a mere $5.25.

I now have the name of the original owner, name of the tradesmen, cost of house & a breakdown of those costs by trade.

I can't quite make of the hand written name of the builder on the permit. I'm also curious about the 1929 "Flour City Furniture. CO." entry on the inspection that lists the work as "W. A. Htg. Plant" - could this be the furnace?....and if so, how on earth did they survive 4 winters without heat?!

In subsequent years, I can also see when the original lead plumbing was replaced, when the gravity furnace was converted to gas, and when the stucco was "repaired" and "painted" (heavy sigh). There were also a lot of repairs to the roof.

StuccoHouse was built for $3400 with and additional cost of $1070 for electrical, plumbing and plaster. I'm pretty sure that original owner would have a heart seizure if he knew what I paid for his handiwork....and be pretty impressed with how long it has lasted.

I guess now I need to track down the relatives of some of the POs......


John said...

Wow, nice find. Congratulations!

Jenipurr said...

Oh, you're so lucky to have found that! We *think* our house was built in about 1911, based solely on looking at property values and maps from that era, and 1911 is when the property value tripled, so we assume that's when they put in the house. But that's probably about as much as we'll ever find.

Jennifer said...

Neat find!

Anonymous said...

Oddly enough, the handwriting seems to identify the builders as "Day labor." Is it possible that the property owner was also the contractor?

The scrawled signature of the inspector appears to read "Jas. [i.e. James] G. Houghton."

By the way, with the information on your abstract of title, you can look up the original patent at the US Bureau of Land Management database. They even have facsimiles of the gorgeous nineteenth-century document.

Anonymous said...

Forgot to mention: originals and microfilm of the building permit index cards, like the one you're displaying, are held at the Minneapolis Public Library (the Central Library, on 5th St. between Nicollet and Hennepin downtown). Access is free, but you have to pay for photocopies.

Also on file at the library, for some properties, are the original lot survey drawings.

For historic house photos in Minneapolis, the Minnesota Historical Society and Hennepin History Museum are great sources. The MHS Visual Resources database can be viewed free online. HHM collections of note include the Confer Realty Company Photos and the Sanborn Insurance Maps.


StuccoHouse said...

Anonymous - You are spot on. My dad also took one look at the building permit and said "day laborers."

Lol....and here I was seeing "Dag Lavour" and had developed an imaginary story of a builder arriving in this country from Eatern Europe and building new houses here.

Oh, very cool tip on the Land MAnagement database....I'll have to look into that next :-)

Jenni @ nest to keep said...

That is so cool that you found that information! I wish our house had that much history. (It's a 1960's ranch style home.)

It's so hard to believe a house could have ever been built for just a few thousand dollars! :)

Anonymous said...

Online at the Minnesota Historical Society's "People Finder" search engine, you can look for Axel L Larson and the other individuals named in your house records.

Once you find a person in the online index of records, you can visit the MHS building in St. Paul and look up the records themselves, which will have additional useful info about the individual and family.

The date and place of death are clues for looking up the person's obituary in the MHS microfilmed newspaper collection.

Lastly, the MHS has US Census records which reveal even more about who was living in your house at 10-year intervals. All you need is the address.

Happy hunting!

StuccoHouse said...

Ah, such a dangerous recommendation pointing us to the MN Historical Society :-) I have spent many an afternoon browsing through their old photos from my neighborhood.

They actually are the ones that got me motivate to get my building permit (note the link to researching your house) in my side bar. Very helpful.

I had the original property survey for my 1928 condo (I was only the thrid owner)....I'd love to have that for me house.

Will said...

Awesome house history!!

Hennepin Hisotry Center has a big collection of real estate photos.

And I know that you can get permits for Ramsey county from the Ramsey County Historical Society back to 1883.

How cool to have the abstract too, i would give my right arm for one for my house!

NV said...

That is SO cool! I lucked out and had the daughter of the original owners knock on the door one day a year or tow after me moved inl

Tiny Oak Park Bungalow said...

It's so cool they have all that info. So many of these permits from the period give you such scant info. I have to get off my but and try to find more for our place.

RSP said...

Wow! This is one of my most awesome things I've ever read. I should call 311 tomorrow and see if I can get any old permits for my house! LOVE the old pic from the 30s, that is so great!

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