Home > Grand Forks Notes, North Dakotiana > Small Town Archaeology III pt.2

Small Town Archaeology III pt.2

As promised yesterday, here is the second part of our salvaging expedition to Crookston, Minnesota.  Our goal was a beautiful, 1898, yellow-brick house which was to be demolished in the levy building projected on the banks of the Red Lake River.  The buff bricks immediately tie the house to the building traditions of the Red River Valley.  Numerous brick buildings in the region sport these buff colored bricks produced at either the Crookston or Grand Forks brickworks.  The house preserved some nice architectural detail.

Crookston House


But also some unmistakable signs of age.  The back wall of the house showed significant distress.


It was interesting to see that the builders had arranged a single course of bricks perpendicular to the courses used in the rest of the house (I am sure there is an architectural term for this and I suspect that I knew it once, but now I can’t remember it!).  It served as an informal cornice immediately above ground level.



We were not the first salvagers in the house.  Early arrivals had removed much of the kitchen cabinets and counters, but had left behind the two working flour bins with hardware.

KitchenRemoval flourbin

They had also removed the carpets from the first floor and exposed in the process the hardwood floors on the lower level.


They had, somewhat aggressively, removed the wooden railing from the interior stair case.


Despite the efforts at salvaging, the house itself retained features common to its age including nicely executed wood frames around the doors, wooden doors with attractive hardware, some well-maintained three-pane windows, and early 20th century duct covers.  We scoped out the situation quickly and decided to attempt the most serious salvaging projects first.  This involved the turn of the century picture window with stained glass insert. The window was held in place by a relatively narrow trim piece that once removed, allowed us to remove the window and pane without any damage. I’d like to think that the stained glass was original to the house.

Window Window2

We then turned out attention to doors (my co-conspirator Bret Weber was in search of 30 inch wooden doors for his roughly contemporary house in Grand Forks) and the duct covers.  My house has forced air hear that comes up through the floor.  We keep saying that we’d like to have in wall ducts and these early 20th century duct covers would complement our 1900 American four-square’s architecture.  It was interesting to see that some of the duct covers had lost their ornate little regulators.  Bret pointed out how these small hoops (visible in the top picture below) turned a braided piece of metal (not a screw!) that pushed or pulled a metal flap that opened or closed the duct.  A very elegant solution!



Examining the doors revealed some nice early 20th century hardware.  We expected to see glass door knobs, but the intricate work on the mortise locks, in particular, attracted our attention.  I think that I could see some art deco influences on the design, so my feeling is that these date to the second quarter of the 20th century, but then again, they were consistent throughout the house and it is hard to imagine a systematic effort to replace all the door hardware 40 years after the house was completed.  It is possible that these are original.  The mortise lock and hardware was relatively easy to salvage.


Hardware Hardware2

From an archaeological perspective, it was interesting (although unsurprising) to see that all the meters were removed from the outside of the house.  The house was quite literally “off the grid” in that some of the tools which embedded the house within the community fabric were stripped away.

ElectricMeter GasMeter

On the other hand, there were all sorts of reminders that the house had recently been lived in.  The reminders of everyday life were haunting.  Christmas lights, an outlet, a marble.

Christmas lights



  1. December 9, 2009 at 9:36 am

    Oh, I’m so glad you salvaged these beautiful items! This house was not on our list. Your photographic story gives the house a proper goodbye. Thank you! Kay

  2. Alexa
    December 9, 2009 at 10:16 am

    As the architectural historian who documented this house in preparation for its demolition, I am very pleased to see that much of the interior elements will be salvaged. I hope plans have been made for salvage of the lovely brick. FYI – the door hardware and stained glass are undoubtedly original to the building.

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