Celebrating Preservation:  Historic Homes in Northfield

By Barbara Evans

Beautiful and stately homes in Northfield are so plentiful that having only four of them on the National Register of Historic Places may surprise Northfielders.  Homes qualify for national or local designation as historic sites based on several criteria, three of which, briefly stated, are being associated with historic or significant events or people, or demonstrating distinctive architecture or construction characteristics.  The four homes designated in Northfield are:  1) The J.C. Nutting House at 217 Union; 2) The Drew H. Lord House at 201 E. Third; 3) The Fred B. Hill House (also locally called “The Parish House”), which is located at 405 E. Third; and 4) The O.E. Rolvaag House at 311 Manitou Street—the only house on the west side.

The J.C. Nutting House (currently the residence of the President of Carleton College) was designed by J.E. Cooke, built in 1888 and added to the Register in 1970.  This home was featured in the “Focus on Preservation” article on June 10th.

The privately owned Drew H. Lord House (also built in 1888) stands tall looking over the library and the downtown.  It is also discussed in the June “Celebrating Preservation” Guest Column as well as detailed in today’s “Focus on Preservation.”

The Fred B. Hill House, built in 1912, faces Central Park.  This home goes by several names. Carleton College and local residents refer to it as “Parish House” because it was given by the Hill family to the Methodists in 1919 to be their parish house. That church used to stand on the now-vacant lot to the east of the home.  It was, however, built as a family home for Professor Fred Hill, his wife, Deborah Sayles Hill, and their five children.  More will be told about this 13, 500 square foot Georgian Revival home and the Hill family in future “Focus on Preservation” articles.  It currently houses Carleton students.

The privately owned O.E. Rolvaag House was also built in 1912 on one of fifteen lots that O.E. Rolvaag developed from land (that included a ginseng farm) that is now Manitou Street.  This modest Craftsman style home and other homes built on Manitou Street, located east of St. Olaf College, provided easy access for Rolvaag and other professors to their work.  Rolvaag is best known for his novel, Giants in the Earth (1927). Other novels in this trilogy are Peder Victorious (1928), and Their Father’s God (1931). These are all novels about the harsh lives of Scandinavian immigrants settling the northern plains. Rolvaag, who wrote his novels in Norwegian, created most of his works in this house, living there until his death in 1931.  The house is still owned by members of the Rolvaag family.

All four of these homes certainly deserve their designations on the National Register of Historic Places.  There are also more homes worthy of consideration in the future.