Austin Living: Old world charm on the farm

Published 5:50 pm Tuesday, July 13, 2021

Saying something is “built to last” can sometimes seem cliché, unless you are talking about some of the old farm houses dotting the landscape of rural Minnesota.

The home of Tiffany and Dylan Davis, just west of Grand Meadow, is one such example.

Situated on 80 acres of land, the three-story gray stuccoed farmhouse is as rich in history as it is in character.

While the couple hasn’t done anything ultra modern to the home they took over from Dylan’s uncle and aunt Glen and Betty Warn, they have added their own small touches to the foundation of those changes that came before them.

One such area is the kitchen. Much of the original woodwork of the kitchen remains, but each family that’s lived in the house added their own ideas along the way. The workmanship is extraordinary, forcing the observer to pay extra close attention to spot the differences between original and new.

“These cupboards, we put in some of the things you see and there was a hole in the chimney where the kitchen stove was,” Dylan said as he guided a tour through the house.

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Glen and Betty moved into the home, built by Glen’s grandfather Simon Olson in what the family believes is 1916, but the property itself dates back to 1876, when the first farm was built by Olson’s father who had come from Norway.

When Olson built the house, he made sure it was something that would stand the test of time and contained features that were ahead of many places in the area.

“Grandpa built this house and it had a generator in the basement before electricity came into the area,” Glen said, noting that Olson took steps to ensure it was ready for electricity from the start. “The house was wired right away for electricity.”

There were also enmities, like a dumbwaiter that would shuttle things easily from floor to floor, and the house was loaded with storage space, necessary for things like keeping foods over long periods of time.

However, the dumbwaiter has been covered over and much of the storage space on the main floor was converted to a bathroom. Some more storage upstairs was also converted into a laundry room.

For the most part, things have largely remained the same in the old house; however, in the days when Glen and Betty moved in, they did make some changes to the home, including the windows.

Betty said that the house had windows everywhere, and while the view to the property can’t be beat, she wanted a change so that not so much of it was visible.

“I didn’t like so many windows,” she said. “Those are the kinds of things I pushed for.”

Over the years, those that have lived in the house worked to maintain the original feel of the house. The wood on the doorframes has been lovingly cared for and the previously mentioned kitchen cupboards all stayed with an emphasis to work the newer additions into the hold frame as much as possible.

Callbacks to the home’s history can be found dotted throughout the house.

A lamp that had been installed early in the homes history continues to swing in the family room while in some places the old push-button switches remain.

The home has been so consistently sturdy over the years that even those coming from outside have noticed its positive traits.

“The most interesting thing is when we had somebody come in and change the furnace,” Betty remembered. “The man was doing something and we would go through the house and he would say, ‘I like this house, I like this house.’ Well I like this house too.”

However, the family has modernized somewhat, adding things along the way that were warranted.

Dylan has been able to come upon the old plans for the original house. Crumbling and delicate, they have been photographed to avoid overhandling, but nevertheless reflect the home they have become familiar with today.

“There are a few things because of how we use the house now,” Dylan said, but added. “Overall, it’s a really solid house.”

The home’s charm extends to the property surrounding the house. Originally meant for farming, many of the older buildings have been taken down in recent years, including fairly recently since Glen stopped farming and he and Betty moved to Grand Meadow.

The removal of these buildings opened up the property, leaving behind the opportunity for a lush and green backyard sprawling across the acreage.

Trees provide plenty of shade and the soft churning of the creek running through the backyard sets a wonderful type of atmosphere when joined with the breeze blowing through the trees and bird’s chirping.

It’s an idyllic setting for the couple and their four children: Aurelia, Orrin, Aletta and Simon.

“We took a lot of the outbuildings down just two years ago,” Tiffany said. “Having the open space now is fantastic.”

What really brings the space together are the memories created over the 100 plus years. When Dylan was younger, he can remember coming to the house and staying for a time at the pink house that continues to sit on the property.

Many of the house’s attributes are still familiar to him. It’s home.

“I grew up in the country, so it’s nice to live in the country,” Dylan said.

For Glen and Betty, it’s just nice to see the old homestead remain in the family.

“We were happy too,” Glenn said when Dylan and Tiffany agreed to take over the home. “It’s kind of nice to keep in the family.”

Tiffany summed up that sentiment in just a few short words.

“It’s just a neat house,” she said.