A 19th century jewel

In my last post I wrote about a famous house on my father’s side of the family, the Rudolph/Parke House in Canton, South Dakota. There is an equally stunning house in my mother’s family as well, the S.H. Holtan House in Dawson, Minnesota.

Svennung “Sam” H. Holtan was the second child of my mother’s great-grandfather, Hans H. Holtan. He was born in Columbia County, Wisconsin and spent his childhood there. The History of Chippewa and Lac Qui Parle Counties, Minnesota (1916) continues Sam’s story, “On April 19, 1872 he located in Lac Qui Parle county and at that time purchased the farm where he now lives. To the original farm he has added some eight hundred acres. The farm is well developed and improved. On the home place Mr. Holtan has erected the best of modern buildings, all of which are kept in most excellent repair.” He built this magnificent twin-towered house on the property in 1897. The house had fourteen rooms.

SH Holtan House
SH Holtan House, Dawson, Minnesota

Sam and his wife, Carrie Hawkos Holtan, had four children: Hannah Alvina, Signette Cadell, Alfred Henry and Hilda Matilda.  Signette and Henry married and moved away from home, but Hannah and Hilda never did. They lived their entire lives in this house, Hilda passing away in 1964 and Hannah in 1970.

After Hilda and Hannah died, they donated the house’s furniture to the Lac Qui Parle Historical Society. The LQPHS’s museum in Madison, Minnesota today contains two completely reassembled rooms from the house, the parlor and one of the bedrooms.

Parlor from SH Holtan House
Parlor from SH Holtan House

Sadly, the house hasn’t fared as well as the furniture after the sisters’ deaths. A real estate listing from 2014 indicates that the house had been¬† abandoned for a number of years with the furnaces removed and in tough shape, but available for a very modest price. There are many interior shots in the listing as well if you’re interested: https://www.oldhousedreams.com/2014/07/22/1897-dawson-mn/

“This is a great turn of the century home. New windows have been added throughout the house. It has a walk up 3rd floor that could be made into living area. The basement was replace approx. 6 years ago. a new septic system was installed about the same time. All the duct work has been installed for forced air heat. The furnaces have been removed. We have had some interest from a few buyers to possibly move the house to a different location. This would give someone the opportunity to build a new home on this site. Of the 12.75 acres 4 acres are tillable. Many options available. Recondition this great old house or tear it down and build a new home in the existing basement. Of the 12.75 acres 4 acres are tillable.”

SH Holtan House 2014
SH Holtan House 2014

On all of my many trips to western Minnesota to visit my mother’s family, passing this house on the highway was always a moment to anticipate. “Did you see them, did you see the towers?” one of us would ask. I never met Hilda or Hannah, but it was always just a little spooky to me as a child to imagine that only two people lived in that gigantic house.

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