Repairing a landmark

The Volstead House in Granite Falls is getting an update to its exterior

The large office off the front entrance of Volstead House museum in Granite Falls houses many period pieces of furniture and a collection of liquor decanters with stoppers shaped like dogs’ heads. Andrew Volstead was often the “inspiration” for liquor-related items, included a Volstead Vodka, because he was one of the originators of the prohibition act in Minnesota.


Rain damage had caused the historical Volstead House in Granite Falls to require repairs this summer.

“The porch is being repaired because water leaked into the bottom of the balcony and down to the porch,” director Mary Gillespie said. “Terri Dinesen wrote the Minnesota Historical Society grant to pay for the architect.” The city of Granite Falls is paying for the actual repairs, she said.

The Volstead House is a registered National Historical landmark, she said.

The contractor for the repair project works exclusively on historic properties to restore them, especially publicly owned property with historical accuracy, Gillespie said.

In spite of the work, tourists continue to visit the museum that has been decorated as a home of the period after having previously housed business offices.

Visitors from as far away as Nebraska still took the pilgrimage to tour the landmark home of a once famous legislator, Andrew Volstead, Saturday, July 29. Five members of the Freese family, with members in Belview, Maynard and Montevideo, took the tour guided by Gillespie.

The entrance to the house is an office space at the bottom of an open staircase. The first floor included another, full office opening to the dining room and the family room, which contain appropriate furnishings. The dining room and the family room both enter the kitchen, which recently received a new wood-burning kitchen stove.

Gillespie said that the Granite Falls Popcorn Stand exhibit, currently on display in the kitchen, will remain there throughout next year when the famous popcorn stand celebrates a major birthday.

The built-in china cabinet in the dining room is currently only accessible through the butler’s pantry in the kitchen as it is kept locked. The china cabinet contains various collectibles including a more modern bottle of Volstead Vodka.

Volstead is best known for his authorship of America’s Prohibition Enforcement Act, and several jokes at his expense included the production of vodka with his surname on the label and the two puppy-shaped liquor decanters in the main office, Gillespie said. The vodka was a donation from Yellow Medicine County Commissioner John Berends who apparently received it as a gift when he owned Bootleggers Supper Club in Granite Falls.

Volstead was also known for the work he did on agricultural issues during his term in office.

“His greatest legacy as a lawmaker,” the house’s historical marker reads, “was the Capper-Volstead Act which permits farmers to join together in cooperatives to bargain for better prices.”

The Capper-Volstead Act was adopted by the United States Congress on Feb. 18, 1922.

“The Volstead House was purchased by the Minnesota Association of Cooperatives and given to the City of Granite Falls in 1977, the marker said. “It became a National Historic Landmark in 1978 and was restored through grants from the U.S. Department of the Interior, the Minnesota Historical Society, cooperative associations and individuals.”

Continuing the tour on the second floor: The bedroom at the top of the stairs is decorated with period furnishings and a display of period clothing, a pedal sewing machine, shoes, a newspaper clipping about Volstead’s daughter going into the law profession with her father, a wooden rocking horse and a chamber pot.

In the hallway is a bookshelf with binders of historial information, a handcrafted quilt regarding Granite Falls’ history and a stocked linen closet.

The largest bedroom contains historical memorabilia from Minnesota West Community and Technical College in town (once known as Granite Falls Vo-Tech), Gillespie said.

Two other bedrooms contained storage and a small office. There is also a full bathroom at the end of the hall on the second floor.

Visitors are given history brochures, encouraged to sign the guest register and to come again.