Restoration Brings Homes to Former Beauty, Reveals History

Northland Uncovered: Restoring Historic Homes

Take a look down East 1st St. and you’ll see countless historic homes, but there’s one home that’s recently gone through a complete overhaul to bring it back to its full glory.

“It takes special people that want to preserve these kinds of pieces,” Dennis Lamkin, board member for the Duluth Preservation Alliance, said.

Lamkin has worked tirelessly to preserve his own home and when giving advice he says you need to be prepared, “Be prepared that there’s going to be a lot of costs, but a lot of pleasure along the way, too.”

He knows a lot about the subject because of all the extensive work he’s gone through.

“We had to refinish all the floors, refinish the walls, replace many of the windows, tuck–point the house, replace the roof, replace the heating system, replace the electrical and plumbing systems, otherwise it was in pretty good shape,” laughed Lamkin.

He and his partner have lived here for 13 years. Before that this beautiful mansion was home to college students.

“You don’t buy them with the anticipation that they’re move–in ready,” Lamkin explained.

Lamkin says it’s the stories and the history keeping these homes living long after the physical presence has deteriorated.

“This house was here during World War I, during World War II, during the Vietnam conflict, when President Kennedy was assassinated. It’s had history,” Lamkin said.

Built between 1912 and 1914, the house was a surprise gift from Bernard Silberstein to his wife Nettie.

The Silbersteins were the first Jewish settlers in the city of Duluth and had famous neighbors.

“Frank Hibbing lived across the street. After him it was the Hartman family who were the founders of Minnesota Power and a frequent guest over there would’ve been Thomas Edison,” Lamkin pointed out.

From room to room it’s as if you can feel the history within.

“In the kitchen you’ve probably had a million cookies baked. You buy a brand new house and it has none of that history,” Lamkin said.

He says it’s these stories making the homes so special, and to conservators it’s an honor to be part of history.

Lamkin tells us he likes to share his home and so he hosts fundraiser dinners and offers tours for the Minnesota Historical Society.

The Duluth Preservation Alliance holds about 10 seminars throughout the year with information on restoring homes.

For more information head to their website.

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