In 1886, George and Sarah Baird completed construction on this grand home, located at what is now 50th Street and Wooddale Avenue. The prominent Edina landowners put much thought and care in their new home while they continued to live in their original house on the property.
After rejecting one set of plans, they hire architect Charles Sedgewick to design the Eastlake style home, which looks very much the same today as it did more than 125 years ago. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and was named an Edina Heritage Landmark.
The home will be one of three houses featured in Edina's Historic House Tour, scheduled for Sept. 15, in honor of the city's 125th anniversary.
To set the stage for the tour, I thought I would publish part of Sarah Baird's diaries when she frets about the plans in the deep cold winter of 1886. James Parsons, a local history buff, transcribed two years of the diaires, which are housed at the Minnesota Historical Society. While I don't know the details of everything she writes about, I loved reading the "behind the scenes" details. George wonders whether the house is too big; the Bairds had no children, but their hired hand Robert lives with them and is regarded as a member of the family. George goes by streetcar into the city to find skilled labor. Sarah mends, sews, bakes, entertains guests and continually revises the plans -- and wonders why she feels so tired at the end of each day.
So take a peek into Sarah's life. Here is one month: January 1886. Comment if you would like to read the next installment. If there is enough interest, I'll upload additional months. Enjoy!
Friday, January 1:
It snowed an inch or two last night but it’s a lovely morning nevertheless. I am all alone working with the plans for the new house as I didn’t quite finish last evening. I bake in the shed oven. Mr. Corser and Mr. Brown call by; Corser brings by a plan for the house but I don’t like it. Robert is cleaning ice; he is late for dinner. George went over to see Mr. Lytton; he is feeling a little better. I have had a busy day and I am tired.
Saturday, January 2:
George goes to the city with James Bull for Grange supplies and I am busy all day. I look for Mr. Neill to come for dinner but he goes to the city instead and calls by on his way home. We go to the Grange and install officers; I feel relieved to be free from the Secretary’s office. Mr. Neill and A. Grieve come to have tea with us and we have a pleasant evening visiting. I get them a box of tea to try at the Hall. George got oysters for ourselves while he was in the city.
Sunday, January 3:
The professor from Carlton College is going to preach at the Chapel; I intended on going but Oh, how it snows and is getting colder! I write to Mattie Howard. We have the oysters for dinner. Amy Bull calls over and we look at the plans for the new house. After lunch I write a long letter to Frank S-. Two letters in one day is a good beginning! It is now snowing. Mr. Brown called by to tell George to bring in the roan steer.
Monday, January 4:
The wind is blowing outside but it is some warmer today than it was yesterday. This is a real winter’s day but the boys are going in with the steer, nevertheless. The steer gets loose on Lowry’s Hill and they have a chase in the deep snow. I knit on my old hood. Bull comes over to get the things for Ada that George got for her in town. The boys are late coming home. I get them a warm supper; they are cold and hungry. It snows most of the day and there are deep drifts in places.
Tuesday, January 5:
George goes in to the city, to Doyle’s – but the Court doesn’t come off. I mend and knit. Robert is chopping wood and he gets a rabbit for Mr. Lytton. I have more oysters for supper but they didn’t taste very good. George called over at John’s; all is well there. Willie Anderson is there. They don’t know when they’ll be out. George hears that Adams is sick.
Wednesday, January 6:
This is a nice, clear, cold morning. We go in to the city. I call at Mrs. Thompson’s and at Mrs. Capin’s; we have an excellent visit. Julia Pomeroy Thompson calls there. We look at nice things and the house until we are tired. Nell gives me their house plan to bring home. It is a nice drive home; the snow is moderating. Robert ground feed all day.
Thursday, January 7:
It is storming today but the boys take in fifty-seven bushels of oats to Sherwood. George goes on in to the city on the streetcar. Robert takes the rabbit over to Lytton and brings the cornmeal home. I make a back for a new dress and then bake in the shed. The lawsuit is given up; Doyle is beaten!
Friday, January 8:
This is the most disagreeable day of the season; it is snowing and blowing so! I finish my old hood; it will do well to wear home. The weather keeps us firing up; I fear it will freeze my plants tonight. We have mush for dinner. The boys stay in the house for a good part of the day. I picked over the beans.
Saturday, January 9:
The mercury is at thirty below zero and there is a strong north wind. It is disagreeable all day long. The boys didn’t do much of anything. I mended and then cooked a vegetable dinner. I looked for a letter in the mail but none came. My eyes were so tired from sewing that I could not see much in the papers.
Sunday, January 10:
It is thirty-eight degrees below zero today with a good breeze. The wood couldn’t keep the plants from freezing; I lost nine of them. We have kept a good fire going these last two nights. George Crowell calls by on his way home from town; he is working for Reagan in the restaurant. It was cold all over.
Monday, January 11:
The weather is more mild today. I mend all day until the afternoon. I called over to Mrs. Millam’s to take my poem on Taylor and to tell her of Mrs. Parkhurst’s death on Christmas night. What a sad Christmas it must have been to the five little ones and her husband who are left; a good woman has gone. The boys are busy hauling straw in the barn.
Tuesday, January 12:
We all go to the city and call at the Coles’ and the Humphreys’. We take dinner at Jim’s, then we call at Whitney’s and at John’s and come on home. I am tired enough! Bull comes over after buttermilk; he says that Coates is sick.
Wednesday, January 13:
George goes in to the city; Robert grinds feed; and I bake in the kitchen shed. The weather is quite mild. I don’t get through baking until the afternoon. Mrs. Millam comes before I get through sweeping up. Mr. Lytton goes to the city; he is better. This is a lovely day, so mild and pretty. I call over to see Coates and find him better. Mr. Hadley is there. We go to the Chapel to hear the concert by the Lyndale Choir; they are very good. Professor Chase proposes to start a singing school to meet alternately at the Edina school house and at the Chapel. We appointed Mondays to meet at the school house. I met Mrs. Enywitz and Miss Ella Stone.
Thursday, January 14:
I feel tired from being out so late last evening. I bake a cake in the coal stove for Dolly and one for us. Mr. Stoddard comes at ten o’clock and stays until three in the afternoon. The boys are gone to Shingle Creek for brick. Mr. Bowyer calls, and Mrs. Ayers. After supper I improve on the house plans and think I’ve got a nice, convenient one after working a long time. I am tired out and go to bed.
Friday, January 15:
We intended on going in to the city to see about the house but it is storming and we conclude not to go. Robert starts out early for brick as it is a warmer day. George and I talk about the house all day. George thinks my plan is too large so we cut it down. I don’t like the dining room now but perhaps the architect can make it all right.
Saturday, January 16:
It snows all day. After dinner we ride over to Mr. Lytton’s; we find them all quite well but Ada had just cut her finger – I fear badly, too. There is a Grange meeting tonight. We had quite a good meeting. The Grange closed before ten o’clock. Dolly comes over to see about the Minutes as it clears away. As we came home there were two very brilliant meteors that shot past the house, lighting the rooms even!
Sunday, January 17:
The party at the Hall stayed until nearly daylight; I would guess they were a very good class of people but a little wild by their staying so late. I get up with a dreadful headache that stays by me all day. I fuss over the plans some. While we are at dinner, Ada and Bill drive up and tell us to look out for company on Tuesday. We have a pleasant visit while they stay.
Monday, January 18:
My head is still bad. I do the washing and dress the chicken, bake cakes and work over the butter and clean the silver. George goes in to the city for a short time and Robert goes for more brick. In the evening George calls over to the Bulls’ to ask them to come over tomorrow. Tonight is the singing school at the school house but we are all too tired to go. I think I will retire to bed. I hope my head will feel better tomorrow so that I can enjoy my company.
Tuesday, January 19:
My head is aching as I awake but I rise early for there are so many things to do to get my house as I would like to have it. I mix my bread and rolls; they are up and running over. It is cold today. Robert freezes his nose going for the brick. George helps me beat the cream and fix the fires and does other things to help, then we all get done up nicely – with no company but the Bulls. We look out in vain. Finally we set our little table. Mr. Cooper comes over and while we are playing Euchre, the young folks drive up and join us in Progressive. I get them refreshments. It is nearly twelve o’clock when they go and it is snowing. The horse gets out of the road and they all have to get out and walk to the gate. I wash the dishes and retire very tired.
Wednesday, January 20:
I wake up loathe to get out of bed. I don’t do much but to get the house straightened and put up the ferns and leaves. My head feels dull but it is some better.
Thursday, January 21:
It is quite cold out but Robert goes for brick, anyhow, and George kills the calf for veal and takes it in. He returns early as the afternoon turns out stormy. The wind rises. My cold is very bad in the head. I spend part of the afternoon in putting up more leaves. Robert Brewis calls in the evening; he looks hard. I haven’t seen him all fall before this. He says he isn’t well, that he threshed too hard. Bull comes over in the evening. He says we all have invitations to Brother Adams’ tomorrow.
Friday, January 22:
It is thirty degrees below zero; what an awful day! We are content to stay by the stove and tend to my cold. The boys sit in the house for most of the day. I turn the sheets and mend over some pants. Robert mends, too. We have a hard work to keep warm.
Saturday, January 23:
It is thirty-six below zero and the wind is strong. If it’s so hard for us to keep comfortable, what of the poor, half-starved and the homeless? I bake bread in the shed oven. George churns and Robert grinds feed in the morning. We have dinner at two o’clock. Mr. White and the Kansas City man drive up. We had thought of driving down to Humphrey’s but the cold scared us out of that thought! It is beginning to cloud up. I think the wind will moderate in the night. Robert joins the lodge.
Sunday, January 24:
It was quite a mild night. It was snowing hard at nine o’clock but it clears away in the afternoon. I got an invitation to Mrs. Schofield’s for the 3rd of February. Bull came over this afternoon and brought a letter from Colonel Taylor, and one from Professor Kahl in regard to the education of farmers and children. I wrote a letter to Mrs. Barnes and one to Ida.
Monday, January 25:
We went in to the city to see Dennis, the architect, after calling at Mrs. Babb’s. She has a great, snug house but not so well-suited for our grounds as the one we drew up. Then we went to Sedgewick and we liked the way he talked very well, so we left our plans with him. I came home nearly sick with a headache.
Tuesday, January 26:
I washed but it storms all day and I can hang out only a part of the clothes. Robert helps me get snow. George is gone to St. Paul for the Agricultural Fair meeting. Mrs. Millam rides in to the city with him. He does not get home until late. They had a big meeting even if it was snowing all day. Mr. Hadley went in to see the doctor; he has paralysis of some nerve in the throat.
Wednesday, January 27:
There is a big frost over everything but it is a lovely, mild day. I hang out the rest of the clothes and sweep up. I mend in the afternoon. Charley Millam comes after some butter and milk. George and Robert go after white sand; they have a hard time of it. George thinks that Rees will make a sale of some lots. I saw “Old Dick” in the yoke hauling lumber. Bull comes over in the evening. He says Mr. Hadley is sick so there’ll be no singing school.
Thursday, January 28:
It is cloudy but we all go in to the city. Robert goes after stone. I call at Mrs. Thompson’s and find her sick but busy getting ready to go to Florida for Will’s health; we have a pleasant call. I go to Mrs. Leed’s but don’t find them at home so I go on to Mary’s on my way down the street. She invites me to come with her but they have so much company I decline. I dine at Reagan’s. I call on Mrs. Delameter and find her well. I walked back to Mary’s and I am so tired. We came home by John’s to see Bell’s new cloak; it is a nice one. It grew cold and unpleasant coming home.
Friday, January 29:
I iron today and go over to take the invitation to the Bulls from May Wilcox to a society at their house. George has to go to the city to see to fixing up the Rees trade, so we can’t go; I am sorry. George sees Mr. Bell; he thinks we have chosen a good architect.
Saturday, January 30:
It is cold today. We go over to D.D. Moors’; it is a long drive and I never was colder! We stop at John’s but find them all gone. John, Bell, Whitney, Willie Anderson, Sadie and Ada, all are at Moors’ when we get there. Their house is warm and we have a nice visit but I am so tired when we get home. We saw a runaway horse and cutter.
Sunday, January 31:
I am about sick. It is a lovely morning. George goes in for Mr. Sedgewick. Mr. and Mrs. Tillaney call by; I enjoy their visit. As soon as they are gone, George comes home. I get dinner and we talk about the house. Sedgewick thinks we have a fine location. Mr. Ewing calls by to talk over his work of overturning the Bible; we think he has a big job.
Nancy Wallace Wild drew this map of her world as she saw it in 1922 when she grew up on 50th and Halifax in Edina. Instead of boutiques at 50th and France, there was a blacksmith. Where movie-goers now line up to see art films at the Edina Theater, farmers came to drop off their milk at a creamery. Where the bank parking lot is today, the Wallace home graced an expansive lawn several feet from the dirt 50th Street. (Long-time residents may remember the Wallace home, which served as Edina's first standalone library in the 1950s and 60s.)
In a few short years, the rural village Wild describes would change dramatically when Henry Brown's cattle pasture would transform into upscale homes of the Country Club District, which was platted in 1924. The "new Edina School," (which residents now refer to as Wooddale School) would replace the much smaller 1888 brick school on the other side of the creek.The Grange, a meeting hall for a farm organization, would move to make way for St. Stephen's Episcopal Church at 50th and Wooddale.
I love this map because it shows in detail an Edina that no longer exists and as no properly surveyed map could. No other map would designate a "big hill for sliding" or a "bag swing," things that rank as significant landmarks for kids, but not so much for official mapmakers.
I did learn from her map that the area had a block factory, which appears to be on 49 1/2 Street, then just wheel tracks behind the Wallace home. Wild describes it in Allie, her 1997 memoir about her sister, not because it was an important Edina industry but because it was a gathering spot for children.
"What normally would not be considered a playground was the block factory and its two sand pits, located a short distance from our house, accessible by way of the wheel tracks behind our property. Its main attraction was the huge, flat stacks of finished cement blocks of finished cement blocks. The stacks, three or four parallel to each other, must have been about 100 feet long, a fourth as wide and 10 or 12 feet high. They served as our play 'palaces.' To get on top we just had to find a place of unevenly stacked blocks, places also where secret inner stairways formed, and climb up, often scraping ourselves on the rough cement but not minding. Once up there we could walk and run along the flat, slightly uneven surface, always on the lookout for the 'holes' where the inner stairways were. The two nearby sand pits provided another kind of sport; we made running leaps into the sand, leaving many a shoe or sock behind. Even the factory itself had playtime possibilities, like climbing the conveyor belt and then sitting on the side of the square funnel at the top and peering down to where the loose sand blended with the powdered cement. That was scary!"
Wild isn't the only one who drew a map of their childhood haunts. I will include more child's eye views of Edina in upcoming blog posts as well as in our upcoming exhibit, "Growing Up in Edina."
Assignment Edina: Draw a map of your own childhood landmarks. Who were your neighbors? Where did you play? How far did your world extend - could you bicycle miles away or did could you only go as far as you could hear your mother's whistle to come home? I'd love to see what you come up with.
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