Stories of home

Published 7:01 am Sunday, May 7, 2017

Houses are made homes by the people who live in them. A house has physical features that may make it unique, but stories about the people who live within are what give the home character and a place in history. During the month of May I will feature stories about other historic homes and the families who lived in them-families who had an impact on the community that Austin is today.

On May 16, I will be joined by Wendy Larson and Jaimie Timm to present through story and photo some of Austin’s beautiful homes of the past. We hope that this will become a series of lectures that you will contribute to through your own home or family history. Details are below.

A house is more than just facts and numbers. For instance, you probably know that the Hormel Historic Home was built in 1871 by John Cook, bought for $3,000 and renovated in 1901 by George Hormel, donated to the YWCA in 1927, and expanded by 7,000 square feet and $2 million in 2009. I could give you more numbers, but I think you’d rather hear that while living in this home George and Lillian Hormel contributed to the economy, culture, and progress of Austin in many ways.

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I recently had the chance to tour what is referred to as the Crane Mansion at 302 2nd Ave. NW (previously Bridge St.). Built in 1906 by Frank I. Crane, the house features elaborate woodwork, poured terrazzo floors, and the original massive coal burning boiler now converted to gas. The house was professionally converted into seven apartments in 1930 and in the 40’s the two main floor apartments were converted to commercial spaces. You may remember it as a chiropractor or the optometrist office operated by the Drs. Nordin. The current owners purchased the building in 2014 and began restoring it to its early 1900s grandeur. Restoration of the three second floor apartments and hallways has been completed, and the third floor apartment, paneled in pine, will be available by fall, 2017. For more information check out

F. I. Crane was a lumber dealer in Austin. Born in 1848 in Ohio he came to Austin with his family in 1863. He married Sylvia Pettibone, also a native of Ohio, in 1880 and they had four children. Crane operated a successful lumber business and was the mayor of Austin for three terms. He served as a school board member and as the President of the board of the Carnegie Library. He also served as the President of the Austin National Bank. Mr. Crane died in 1910 and the Austin Daily Herald reported that all business houses of the city were closed on January 17, 1910 in honor of his passing.

The Hormel and Crane names are often found together in the reports of social events of the early 1900’s. As neighbors and friends they added to the foundation and architecture of Austin.

History Happy Hour: “Farming the Ridge”

5:30 p.m social, 6 p.m. presentation, Monday, May 8

Dramatic monologues taken from interviews conducted by Ken McCullough, Winona’s Poet Laureate, with farmers and their families who live and work on the Garvin Heights Ridge, outside Winona. Free for members of the HHH, Mower County Historical Society and Friends of the Library. $5 for nonmembers. Light snacks included. Cash bar available.

Hearth & Home Series: “Austin’s Other Historic Homes”

10 a.m., Tuesday, May 16

Presented by Jaimie Timm, Wendy Larson, and Holly Johnson. Residents of Austin’s past built homes and contributed to the economy and culture of the community. Learn about their homes and their lives in this presentation. Homes and families featured will include the other Hormels, the George Burnham home, and the Charles F. Fox home and the Fox Hotel. Free.