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New life for the Gluek house

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John G. and Minnie Gluek house
The John G. and Minnie Gluek house is on the National Register of Historic Places. It's where Tessie Bowman lived since 1939 until her death in 2006.
MPR Photo/Jim Bickal

The new owners will be only the third family to own the home, and they have a lot of work ahead of them.

The Gluek mansion was owned by Tessie Bowman.  She died last August at the age of 89.  Bowman had lived in the house for over 60 years.  Her husband, who lived there as well, died in 1983.  They had no children.  

Bowman, who grew up in Kentucky, did have 18 siblings.  Because she left no will, her one living sister and 53 other relatives will inherit the estate. 

Tessie Bowman in her younger years
Tessie Bowman in her younger years.
photo courtesy of Tessie Bowman's estate

Shirley Rogers and Gerald Crow live in Waterloo, Iowa.   They are Bowman's great niece and nephew and were surprised to learn of their inheritance.  Rogers says Tessie was a colorful character.

"She liked to talk, tell stories."  

Crow agrees.  He remembers one of his favorite stories and points to the front screen door.

"See these two holes here?  They were from a handgun, .38.  I don't know exactly what it was, but somebody come to her door that wasn't supposed to be coming to her door and she ran them off."

Kate Roos lives next door.  After Bowman died, Roos helped find homes for her nine cats.  She says Tessie was very devoted to her kitties.

"They're a family together and she knew them all really well.  She would call to them all the time and she would say, 'Willy go get Baby and go find Jimmy' and so then they would all, she claimed, communicate with her and one another and kind of this nice little family.  With her gone, they were kind of flailing, they lost weight.  It was really becoming bad.

Heirs of Tessie Bowman
Shirley Rogers, Doris Bender and Gerald Crow are heirs of Tessie Bowman.
MPR Photo/Larissa Anderson

Roos and another neighbor, Maia Aarsheim, say Bowman loved animals of all kinds.

"She took a live squirrel out of my yard that was chasing my kids and just grabbed it by the scruff of the neck and put it in a cage by her house."

Kate Roos emphasizes Bowman's love for animals, "The first thing to get shoveled in a big snow storm was a path to the tree so that she could put food out for the squirrels and the rabbits."

Aarsheim adds Bowman also fed the wasps.

Lynn Tupper knew Bowman for 40 years through their mutual interest in collecting.   He says by the end of her life she had filled up most of the 6,900 square feet in the house with antiques and other items she had collected.

Tessie Bowman's collection of Flow Blue china
Tessie Bowman's collection of Flow Blue china
MPR Photo/Jim Bickal

"It was actually a store house she had filled from top to bottom, and she was sleeping in a daybed in the library because the bedrooms were filled, the attic was filled.  All the rest of the house was filled up."

It took several months for Tony Scornavacco of H & B Gallery to organize the items in the house for a gigantic estate sale.  

"We found more quantity, I think, than I've ever dealt with in a single house, frankly, and that is because the boxes were piled high in every room, and we had to uncover all of that and very much of it was out for her display.  In her living space, she had all the cabinets filled to look at, but the rest of the things were put in boxes and stored six feet high."

Scornavocco says Bowman was particularly interested in saving items that were made around the beginning of the 20th century.  It's fair to say that the most significant item she preserved is the house itself.  Very little has been changed or updated since the mansion was constructed in 1902.

Architectural historian Paul Larson was hired by Tessie Bowman in 1989 to write the nomination that would get the house listed on the National Registry of Historic Places.  He says the house is fine example of Victorian architecture with "a wonderful wealth of Georgian revival detail and ornament," but even more distinctive is the two-story carriage house behind it.

Sketch of the accident that killed the Glueks
In the Minneapolis Tribune report from 1908, the paper provides a sketch of the accident that killed John G. and Minnie Gluek.
MPR Photo/Jim Bickal

"Carriage house is the fancy name we use today.  It was called a barn back then because there was also a place for hay storage as well as the horses themselves."  

Larson says the Gluek carriage house "has to have the fanciest hay storage doors in the Twin Cities."

He also says architect William Kenyon, made some surprising decisions on the interior of the home.

"It's not anything like one would expect from a Georgian house.  The staircase goes off to the side rather than the grand central stair that you would expect in a Georgian house, and the ornament goes back and forth between sort-of proper Georgian neoclassicism and the progressive design that William Kenyon was getting into."

Larson was taken with the kitchen, with many of the original features still intact.

an old electrical cord
An old electrical cord.
MPR Photo/Jim Bickal

"This is just amazing to see a kitchen remaining from a turn of the century house.  One of the things that allowed it to remain is that it was large for its period. This is a good-size kitchen, the kind of kitchen that came in when the lady of the house, in this case Minnie Gluek, got into cooking herself and it wasn't just a place where the maid would hang out."

Larson also toured the second level of the house.

"One of the most striking features of the bedroom floor, the second floor, is that each room is designed a little bit differently, different coving, different glazing pattern in the windows -- a pre-scholarly or anti-scholarly approach to designing the upstairs."

Larson characterizes what he means by an "anti-scholarly approach" to architecture.

"Who cares what people did in the late 18th century, we're just getting ideas from them and doing our own thing."

Evelyn and Gary Hill
Evelyn and Gary Hill are the new owners of the Gluek house on Bryant Ave. in Minneapolis. They plan to renovate the house and live in it with their three children.
MPR Photo/Jim Bickal

The first occupants of the mansion were John and Minnie Gluek.  John was the son of the founder of the Gluek Brewing Company.  On August 19th, 1908, John and Minnie were driving back to Minneapolis from their summer home on Lake Minnetonka when their car was struck by a train at a blind intersection.  They were both killed at the scene.  

The Glueks left the house to their only child, Eugene, who was only 13 years old at the time.  Eugene and his family lived there until 1939 when they sold the mansion to Tessie's husband, real estate investor Henry Bowman. 

Today, the house is being sold for only the second time in its history.  The new owners are Gary and Evelyn Hill who have lived in the neighborhood for ten years.  They are planning to move into the house with their three children as soon as possible.  Evelyn says the condition of the house is an opportunity and a challenge.

"The great news is it hasn't been touched, right?  So, we're talking pristine wookworking; everything is just unbelieveable.  The bad news is it hasn't been touched.  It's knob and tube wiring, and it's an electrical scary place right now.  Our goal is to get the kitchen up and running and the bedroom and one of the bathrooms completely livable before we bring the kids in."

Gary Hill is planning to do a lot of the work himself.  He says his goal is to modernize the house but retain as much of its original design as possible.

The house still has the original ice box
The house, built in 1902, still has the original ice box. Henry Bowman installed a compressor in the unit to make the ice box functional.
MPR Photo/Jim Bickal

"There's an icebox that was converted to a semi-modern it's got a compressor now down in the basement. It kind of works, but we've talked about how we're going to save it because we're not just going to throw it out. It's probably not going to be an icebox anymore, but [we'll keep] the hinges and the doors and somehow [find] a place for it because we do recognize what a wonderful thing it is."

The Hills says that some of the people in the neighborhood are shocked they've taken on this project.  But Evelyn clarifies "the people that know us get it."  

Do the Hills plan to live in the Gluek house for a long time?

Evelyn Hill says yes.

"It's our legacy.  It's our family home."