A house full of treasures

SMSU professor working to restore his Victorian house to what it looked like back in early 1900s

Photo by Mike Lamb Mark Goodenow stands on the porch he recently finished restoring to its original look on his Victorian house located at Sixth and Lyon streets in Marshall. The Southwest Minnesota State University professor has been restoring the house ever since purchasing it in 1990.

MARSHALL — Southwest Minnesota State University professor Mark Goodenow was driving around in New Ulm enjoying his hobby of looking at Victorian-style houses when he came across exactly what he needed for his latest restoration project.

His Victorian house at the corner of Sixth and Lyon streets in Marshall needed a porch.

“A friend and I, we look at the houses in New Ulm. They have more than we (Marshall) do,” Goodenow said. “I drove by (the house) and I said ‘look, this has a porch a lot like mind.’ So we pulled over. We found a lot of things in this porch (in New Ulm) I guess was missing off this house (Marshall).”

Goodenow was actually looking at a house that suffered a tragic fire seven years ago that killed six people. However, there were many parts of the house still intact. The front porch he needed for his restoration project was entirely in front of him, including the railings and arches.

More treasures awaited Goodenow when he walked up to the door.

“So we knocked on the door and a little old lady let us look through and the inside is exactly the same (as mine). She was impressed. I knew exactly what was behind the door before she opened it,” Goodenow said.

That’s because it was almost the same house. Goodenow said he’s not sure if it was the same builder for both houses that are each more than 100 years old. Goodenow, however, believes the same blueprint was used on both houses.

“And there might be a connection, because the owner of this house (in Marshall) lived in New Ulm before moving here,” he said. He said the family owned the flour mill in Marshall.

Finding the New Ulm house was the break Goodenow needed to find the exact pieces for his Marshall house.

“They were going to bulldoze the house. So they let me have whatever I wanted,” he said. “The whole porch came off, so it was an unique project. And it went on here (Marshall).”

But Goodenow was able to use a lot more of the New Ulm house than just the porch. Through the years, the Marshall house turned into a hospital and boarding house. So many original features were removed.

“The tile on the fireplace is from the house in New Ulm,” Goodenow said. “We took the tile off. I cleaned it a whole lot. That’s true Victorian tile. What was there (in the Marshall house) was pretty well chipped up from the hospital, especially the hearth. I like to keep it the same, but when you have the chance to harvest that much tile, we did do that.”

Goodenow was also able to take a large wooden sliding door from the New Ulm house. The door was used to separate the front entrance room and a dining room.

“That huge big door there,” he said pointing to the door now inside his home. “They had taken it out when they converted it to a hospital. But the house in New Ulm still had that big huge door. And it is big and huge.”

Goodenow bought the Marshall house in 1990 and through the years filled it with Victorian-era furniture that he has collected as far back as when he was in high school.

“I was living here in town for only two years. I wanted a Victorian. There weren’t a lot of houses in town (on the market),” Goodenow said. “So I just told the realtor if you find something give me call.”

She did when she found the Victorian house for sale at Sixth and Lyon streets.

“It was way too big. I didn’t want a big house. But I said to the realtor somebody needs to buy this house because the roof is starting to go,” Goodenow said.

The realtor went back to the owner of the house. After saying no to other prospective buyers in the past, for some reason the owner said yes to Goodenow.

He said the price actually went down after an appraisal was done and he decided to buy it. And since then, Goodenow has made sure the house looks, inside and outside, a lot like it did in early 1900s.

“I’m living in a museum,” he said.

While none of the furniture is original pieces from the house, each piece has some interesting stories. One of his favorites is a couch in the front room from the 1920s.

“It’s a classic 1920s,” he said. He explained it belonged to an interior designer and buyer for Marshall Fields who moved around a lot. “So the couch as been to the West Coast. The couch has been in Italy, this couch has been in France. So wherever she moved in the world, she took the couch with her. It has traveled more than I have.”

According to Goodenow, there are more rooms in the house than he can possibly use in a single day. The first floor consists of four rooms, a pantry, hallway, while the there are five bedrooms on the second floor. There once were three bedrooms on the third floor, but there is only one large one now. There is also a finished basement that features a kitchen area that was put in by the hospital, which was also used when the house was a boarding house.

The garage is another recent completed project. It was originally built in 1917 and was converted into two apartments in the 1920s and 30s. He believes the garage was built originally to house a 1917 Pierce -Arrow.

“I took off the apartment stuff and made it into a garage again,” Goodenow said. He also recovered the original driveway that was covered in dirt.

Goodenow’s present project is a water fountain in the front of the house. The foundation has been completed and he expects work will resume on it when the weather warms up.

“The fountain project is something I always wanted,” he said. “It’s very Victorian and I happened to find one online in Kansas City. It needs to be put together and it needs to be stripped and then repainted by the body shop.”

A second porch that already exists on another corner of the house will be a future project.

“It’s just a Victorian decoration,” he said. “It doesn’t do anything functionable, but it tells you where the front of the house is and it makes it not flat. It would really change the look.”

Unfortunately, Goodenow was unable to get any parts for that porch because the New Ulm house was designed a little differently, he said.

“And the pieces I could have taken off the New Ulm house burned. The fire broke out in the front hallway,” he said.

Goodenow also said he receives a lot of compliments on the completed porch.

“The idea, you really are not supposed to notice it because it’s supposed to look like it always been there,” he said. “I like people who notice, even if they criticize.”


Today's breaking news and more in your inbox

I'm interested in (please check all that apply)

Starting at $4.75/week.

Subscribe Today