Dayton’s Bluff historic home saved

A year ago, the charming Victorian house at 702 East Third Street was in shambles. It was nearly ready to be demolished, but was saved thanks to neighborhood advocates. (Patrick Larkin/Review)

Kids from City Academy are working on building a garage for the historic Victorian home. The students get hands-on construction experience that can translate to real-life job skills, while still taking a full regimen of classes at the school. (Patrick Larkin/Review)

Intricate woodwork details such as this are prevalent throughout the house. Contractors were able to preserve nearly all of the original woodwork for the house, inside and out. (submitted photo)

Will likely end up on city home tour

The handsome Victorian house at 702 East Third Street was 30 days from potentially being a pile of rubble -- it had been listed as a “category 3 vacant home” after years of sitting empty.

A tree had fallen on the roof and the property owner couldn’t handle all the resulting repairs needed. Water damage was piling up, and the house was more or less slowly rotting away from the inside. The interior walls on the second floor were in shambles.

By the time Dayton’s Bluff Neighborhood Housing Services bought the home in order to save it from demolition, it was pretty faded and had structural damage.

“To walk into it was pretty horrific,” said Matthew Zinser, who’s in charge of managing the renovation.

But it was also a gorgeous 1883 Victorian with intricate architectural details inside and out; a house that Dayton’s Bluff residents thought was worth saving.

So Brad Griffith, a St. Paul real estate agent who’s also part of the Dayton’s Bluff Vacant Housing Task Force, alerted Dayton’s Bluff Neighborhood Housing to the situation at the home. Pick it up and fix it up, he encouraged the East Side housing developer.

“Most people like the (Dayton’s Bluff) historic district, and didn’t want to see the building torn down,” Griffith said.

Nearly a year later, the house is looking pretty good -- there are new floors, an updated kitchen, new paint inside and out. The second story, which was hit particularly hard by water damage from the roof, is looking brand new.

And despite the updates, the home retains much of its historical charm. Contractors were able to save all of the old woodwork, and repainted the elegant exterior to accent its features.

It makes a good companion house to its next-door neighbor, another rehabbed Victorian which got an award in 2013 for its historic-style paint job.

Learning to build

The house is also getting a new garage, built by teenagers.

Kids at City Academy High School have been coming to the house during school hours and learning how to erect a garage from scratch.

With the guidance of their instructor Chia Yang, the kids have learned how to mount trusses, put up walls, and other building skills. Last week they were just about ready to put the roof on the structure.

The hands-on work experience is “a good opportunity for the kids,” Yang said. Yang graduated from City Academy back in 1999, and said the hands-on construction work he did “opened up my eyes.”

Now, as an instructor, he feels like he’s giving back to the neighborhood, he said.

In addition to showing them how to work as a contractor, Yang also takes students around to different trade unions, to encourage them to network and learn how to approach finding a job after graduating.

Tommy Yang, 17, said he appreciates the hands-on work that the construction class at City Academy provides.

“There’s more variety,” he said.

Michael Yang, 19, decided to go back to school to learn construction at the school.

“I want to experience a lot of stuff before I get a real job,” he said.

Slotted for home tours

Though the house isn’t complete yet, Jim Erchul, director of Dayton’s Bluff Neighborhood Housing Services, said the house should be ready to go in time for the St. Paul/Minneapolis Home Tour, as well as for the Dayton’s Bluff Vacant Housing tour.

The house is likely to end up on both tours -- the Twin Cities home tour takes place April 26 and 27, while the Dayton’s Bluff tour will take place a week later.

Erchul said the house had a total of $104,000 in rehabilitation costs. Funding for the rehab came through Neighbor Works America and state housing funds. DBNHS is hoping to sell the house for $187,000. With purchase costs, this will mean the house may be sold at a $20,000 loss, which Erchul said is not a bad loss for such an extensive project.

The main point is that the historic home was saved, and most likely will be occupied by the buyer.

And though the house isn’t on the market yet, Erchul said they’ve already had people interested in purchasing the house.

“That’s a good sign,” he said.

Contact Patrick Larkin at 651-748-7816 or at Follow him on Twitter at @ESRPatrickLark.

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