Residents enjoy craftsmanship, sturdy foundations, and happy vibes of their homes
The Antone Nielson Home —1898
Call it solid construction or call it a teenager’s worst nightmare, but the nine-inch-thick walls of this grand home block Wi-Fi signals.
“My kids would tell you that is a major deterrent (to living in a historical home),” says Laura Clark, who along with her husband Carl and two teenage sons, live in the Fort Street home. But, as a parent, she sees such a technological disadvantage as a benefit.
“We see our kids a lot more,” she says. Everyone gathers in the living room, where they can connect with family and to the internet since the walls are thinner here.
Historical homes have their quirks. Still, they also have personality and spirit, and that’s what Laura and her family love about their 119-year-old home.
“It has a happy feeling,” she says.
She attributes much of it to the home’s original family. Antone Nielson, one of Draper’s prominent sheep ranch owners, built the home and raised crops and livestock to supply food to his ranches. The family also gave generously to the needy in the community, often delivering food by sled.
The home has been owned by only a handful of people. It was the first in Draper to have running water. After the Great Depression, it was divided into four apartments with one common bathroom. Central heating and air arrived in the early 1990s. The Clarks bought the home shortly thereafter and took over a year to complete renovations and upgrades.
The home’s unique characteristics and beauty attracted them: the stained-glass windows, the detailed wood trim around each door, and the parquet floors. Outside, there’s gingerbread trim and two matrimony trees—towering sycamores representing husband and wife, a common cultural trend a century ago.
“You just don’t see so many of these things anymore. Superior craftsmanship went into homes back then,” Carl said. He especially likes the life-sized sheep carvings on the gables. The story goes that Antone enjoyed inviting business associates over to enjoy his wife’s cooking. Instead of an address, associates were told to look for the sheep.
Clark, a contractor who has always loved historical homes, says that despite the home’s solid granite foundation and Wi-Fi hindering walls, one needs a delicate, skilled touch to preserve its historical integrity. “Knowing when to stop so the craft work isn’t destroyed” is key, he says.
Just like with Antone, the Clarks enjoy hosting here, with summer picnics on the shaded grounds. Architectural students have studied the home, and production crews have filmed commercials and movies.
Laura sometimes dreams of living in a modern home with lots of closets and bathrooms but always falls back in love with her old house. She thinks about how life was for the people who built the home, and “that reminds me to slow down a bit.”
Carl agrees. The house dictates a pace where tasks take longer—there are chickens to feed, 90-year-old apple trees to tend, and a large lawn that needs mowing. But he finds joy in that.
As he puts it, in a historical home, “you’re encouraged to live at the speed life should be lived at.”
The A.B. (Aurelius) Fitzgerald Home — 1898
It was love at first sight when Melissa Prince and Andy Andrelczyk spotted the Queen Anne Victorian with a For Sale sign out front.
“We saw the potential of the house and property,” says Andy about the Fort Street home. “We didn’t want that to just slip away. We thought, ‘we can fix this up and add something to the community. Make it look like it did back in the day.’”
“Bit by bit,” adds Melissa. “(A historical home) is always a work in progress.”
The home spoke to their hearts, their love of history, and their green thumbs with its large yard. The appealing sense of scale—tall windows, high ceilings, and 10-inch-wide floor planks caught their eye. Melissa, a fan of Laura Ingalls Wilder books and pioneer-era homes, loved the big front porch. It was the perfect place for conversation and enjoying the mountain view.
Andy says the rock-solid foundation and structure of the home, with its history and design, appealed to him. Aurelius Fitzgerald, a prominent sheep rancher and son of Perry Fitzgerald, one of Draper’s founders, got married later in life and built the home for his wife, Mary Ellen Brown. The home stayed in the family for many decades, well loved by all, Andy acknowledged.
Inspectors, who have taken a detailed look at the all-brick home, are always impressed with its granite foundation. Despite having withstood an earthquake in the 1930s, there are no cracks in the foundation or walls. “No corners were cut in building this place. It shows. It has lasted,” he says.
Melissa and Andy believe historical homes are important to preserve in a community because they add a welcome balance to a city of cookie-cutter homes. As Andy puts it, “You need that sense of who you were (in a community), not always looking at who you are or who you will be.”
The couple’s grand plan is to take steps to ensure the home’s prosperity. They aren’t interested in selling their property to a developer, and they view themselves as longtime, loving custodians who value the tradition of the families before them.
“As long as the Lord’s willin’ and the creek don’t rise,” jokes Andy.
The Walter J. Green Home (also Reid Beck Home) — 1900
Look around the living room of this handsome home in Draper, and there’s one thing missing—a TV. The residents like it that way.
“This home is so enchanting,” says Jamie Jackson, who has lived in the home for eight years. “We wanted to keep it peaceful and calm.” Her sister Melissa agrees and offers, “Kind of like it was back in the 1900s,” when the home was built. The four felines who congregate in the room savor the lack of electronics too, as it means more attention for them.
The TV-less living room, with two fireplaces and a player piano, features enormous bay windows that perfectly frame a fresh-cut Christmas tree, which still stands long past the holiday season because the renters say it looks ideal there. Others have also seen the charm of the living area. The 2012 movie, “Christmas Oranges” was filmed here.
The 117-year-old home was originally a red brick home and built by one of Draper’s prominent sheep ranchers, Walter Green. Later, it was home to Reid Beck, a well-known principal who had a short commute to the Draper Park School kitty-cornered from the home.
“The house builds character,” says Melissa, who has also lived here for eight years. All the longtime renters agree it takes a unique individual to live in a historical home, and when the rare vacancy comes up, the landlord makes sure the prospective renter appreciates those character-building features: a garage door which only opens manually, closets too tiny for today’s wardrobes, and narrow stairs that require concentration while climbing.
On the other hand, says Melissa and the other renters, the home is full of charming, unique features such as a pull chain water closet, stained glass windows that resemble smiley faces, and bathroom sinks with built-in soap holders. As well, there’s even a friendly ghost, a girl with yellow hair, who has made a one-time appearance.
Then there is the yard, an expansive place that spoils them with shade from mature pines, fruit from the orchard of plum, cherry, apple, and pear trees, and a fire pit for winter nights.
“It’s an easy house to love, and it’s a hard house to leave,” says Melissa.
Declares her roommate Natalie Madsen, “Marriage is basically the only thing that will get us out of here.”