July 21, 2023 at 11:04 a.m.
In pursuit of North Branch’s housing history
Have you ever driven or walked past a cool old house and wondered what its story is? Who lived there? Who built it? What did members of the founding household do for a living, where did they come from? Well, Kyle Johnson of North Branch has wondered about those thing, and decided to put his musings into action.
Johnson is chipping away at uncovering stories about historic downtown North Branch homes and documenting them. His goal is to someday create a non-profit to archive the homes’ histories, do some public education, maybe assist in preservation and make materials (print and digital) available.
The “Historic North Branch Homes Project” is currently in the process of collecting details about historic homes tied to important figures in North Branch.
If you know the story of an historic house in North Branch send an e mail and let him know the preliminary information at [email protected]
By ‘historic,’ Johnson seeks turn-of-the century or thereabouts. He’s focusing on the central village of North Branch, from the Oak Hill Cemetery to Grand Avenue and Cedar Street south to Oak Street. Stories about sites completed so far include information on architecture, construction, what the owner contributed to the community (pastor, doctor, mayor) or did for a career and details about the first inhabitants— children, hobbies, myths and mysteries. Home project stories come from neighbors, family, local researchers, real estate abstracts and combing old newspapers for obituary information and family articles.
Similar efforts to what Johnson has undertaken are on-going in other cities in Chisago County. Documentation is done by hobby-historians and other efforts have been motivated by homeowners themselves.
Center City and Taylors Falls are two local home history hotbeds that come to mind.
Jill Behnke, Center City Mayor, said she hopes to have some form of print profiles of homes, starting first in the designated historic district, to be ready by the time Center City Days roll around later this month. There are 10 homeowners in Center City who have filled out their homes’ story forms. Photos will be taken and the goal at this point is to make a booklet.