Not even in their wildest dreams would this homeowner or realtor expect a home to be featured by the New York Times.
Yet, the home of Gwen and Steve Rudney at 303 E. 5th St. in Morris was featured in a July New York Times story about what kind of house $350,000 buys at various locations in the U.S. The story was posted online on July 10 and was published in the July 14 print edition.
“The exposure is a chance of a lifetime,” realtor Debra Powell of Re/Max Realty in Alexandria. “It is very cool.”
The piece was included in the Sunday business section. It was also posted online. It describes various features of the home including a heated glass-walled front porch that spans the home’s width and leads through a pair of solid wood doors into the foyer and also on the first floor, a pair of parlors ornamented with stained glass and separated by columns surrounded by decorative woodwork.
Powell said the Rudneys have friends who are real estate photographers which appears to be the connection from the house to the New York Times feature story.
Friends of the Rudneys noticed it as did friends of friends, Gwen Rudney said in an interview via Powell’s cell phone. Often, the friends of friends were surprised that friends knew the Rudneys or had been in the house. “They are surprised that people in Morris know each other,” Rudney said with a laugh.
Powell sat at the table in the house’s modern kitchen in front of large east window with a copy of the July New York Times beside her.
While people may say they can build a new house for $350,000, “You couldn’t build a house like this today for $350,000,” Powell said. “You would never get the craftsmanship, the attention to detail. To replicate a house like this, I don’t know what the dollar amount would be.”
The house was built in 1902 by Frank and Ida (Stebbins) Hancock. The couple lived in the home for 49 years. A family with nine children, Malcolm and I.G. Anderson lived in the house after the Hancocks.
The rich woodwork around large windows, including windows with the original stained glass and wave glass, and the wood floors have been well preserved over 100 years. Looking at the front staircase with an alcove, it could be 1901.
When they bought the house in 1991 it needed work but it was livable, Rudney said.
The condition of the woodwork, stairs and other features is surprising since the house served as a University of Minnesota Morris Beta Sigma Psi fraternity house from 1963 until 1990.
“Thirty-six bunk beds on the second floor,” Powell said in amazement. Those rooms with bunk beds now have only one bed with furniture that fits the era of the home.
Rudney said fraternity members and their then guests have told the family about parties and other fraternity life.
Powell was showing a house in Alexandria when she mentioned the Rudney house in Morris. The potential buyer of the Alexandria house said she had been a cook in the fraternity house, Powell said.
It seems the ties to the fraternity house and the university were strong as several of the fraternity residents have become big supporters and donors to the university, Rudney said.
“At least two times we had events where they came and looked at it to see where they slept and ate,” Rudney said.
Although the fraternity members and guests treated the old house well, Rudney did need to remove black paint from the woodwork in one room. That job took some time, she said.
In contrast to the busyness of a fraternity house, the Rudneys and their three children lived at a different pace in the house.
“We’ve loved it as our family home,” Rudney said. “There’s been a lot of fun in it.”
The Rudneys still live in the house. A large cardboard box that was converted into a fort and playhouse for the grandkids stays in one of the second floor bedrooms. Rudney said the box was made into a fort when their oldest grandson Jonah, 8, was four.
The front porch that needed six rafters replaced because of damage caused by fraternity sunbathers offers large windows to the front yard.
The first floor includes a living room, parlor, dining room and the modern kitchen and bathroom. The second floor holds the bedrooms and a bathroom while the third floor contains a large master suite.
While they raised their kids here the house also provides another environment. “It’s a very quiet, peaceful house,” Rudney said.
Rudney pointed out the windows that were behind Powell who was sitting at the table.
“The view, if you look at it, it’s beautiful,” Rudney said of the yard and line of large trees that separate the house from another on the block.
Powell can picture having coffee on the front porch. She can also picture the basement or even the master suite being converted to an area where kids can gathered as while a second floor office and bedroom combination being converted to a master suite.
The New York Times has raised the profile of the house, Powell and Rudney said. And it could help lead to a buyer.
The goal for her and Rudneys, Powell said, “is to sell the house to somebody who appreciates it as much as they did.”