Historic Grand Forks house for saleOn tree-lined Reeves Drive in old Grand Forks, the stories have gathered for more than a century, seeping into the walls of stately, big-yard homes, such as the turreted Queen Anne variant at 504 Reeves Drive.
By: An AP Member Exchange Feature By Chuck Haga, Grand Forks Herald, The Jamestown Sun
GRAND FORKS — On tree-lined Reeves Drive in old Grand Forks, the stories have gathered for more than a century, seeping into the walls of stately, big-yard homes, such as the turreted Queen Anne variant at 504 Reeves Drive.
It can be yours — house and stories and the picture of Jane Russell all grown up — for just a tad more than a half million dollars.
The house was built about 1901 from a mail-order architectural plan for Gustav Rhienhold Jacobi (1866-1949) and his wife, Amelia, according to a grandson, Robert Coe, living in Washington state.
Its construction likely reflected the Jacobi family’s prosperity during what was called the Second Dakota Boom, a period of rapid growth for banks and other institutions in the Red River Valley as mortgage-seeking immigrants swarmed into the state.
“Gustav owned the bank in East Grand Forks and a cabin on Lake Bemidji, which is still in the Jacobi family,” Coe wrote in 2007 to Brent Krenelka, who has spent several years and a great deal of money restoring the Reeves Drive house.
“The six children, who all lived quite long lives, had many happy memories of life on Reeves Drive and summers at the lake,” Coe wrote. “Some economic event (the family is not sure it was the Great Depression) caused the bank to close, and it was about that time that Gustav and Amelia moved to California.”
Their three daughters — including Geraldine, mother of Jane Russell — and one of the sons joined them out west. Son Gustav Rhienhold Jr. stayed here except for service as a pilot in World War I. His son, Charles “Bud” Jacobi, Jane’s cousin, collected two Purple Hearts, two Bronze Stars and a Silver Star for gallantry in Italy during World War II, then returned to Grand Forks.
He died here just last month at the age of 87.
J.D. had never been in the castle-house before it was shown by a real estate agent a few years ago. “My great-great grandfather built the house,” he said. “This was his dream house, but he lost it. He had to sell it.”
Now Krenelka, who lives not far away on Almonte Avenue, hopes to sell it.
He figures he’s put about $450,000 into restoring the house, undoing its 1930s conversion to a duplex and using original plans, family recollections and the help of a historical preservationist from Fargo to return it largely to a home that old Gustav might recognize, except for the upper screened porch someone added along the way.
“We essentially dropped the center out of the thing,” Krenelka said. “A lot of the work you can’t see — new structural beams, plumbing, electrical wiring. I tried to make it as modern as I could, but as I got into it, I got excited about getting it right historically.
“You can’t build a Reeves Drive neighborhood. You have to use the history that’s here.”
He had new cabinetry done to match the old and made use of original leaded glass. Hardwood floors were restored in some rooms and replaced in others. Light fixtures, hinges, doorknobs and other features in bedrooms, baths and a formal dining room were special-ordered to approximate originals. The kitchen was expanded and opened up with a new entryway, “more accommodating for a large single family.”
The local housing market was OK when Krenelka started his project. But as the renovation became “more, more, more,” he said, the market began to slide.
“Then, the banks thing happened,” he said.
He started listing the house at $895,000. He’s dropped it since to $565,000.
Jane Russell, 88, lives today in California. In a 2002 visit to Bemidji, joined by cousins Bud Jacobi of Grand Forks and Judy Jacobi of Bemidji, she reminisced about her youthful escapades in the area, her film career (she appeared in two dozen movies, including Howard Hughes’ “The Outlaw” in 1941 and “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes,” alongside Marilyn Monroe, in 1953), and her second career modeling and promoting Playtex “cross your heart” brassieres in the 1970s.
She was born in the cabin, said to be one of the first cabins built on Lake Bemidji, in 1921, the same year that cousin Bud Jacobi was born in Grand Forks. Her parents had been living in Canada but went to Bemidji for the birth to make sure Jane was born an American citizen, according to a biography posted on the Internet.
J.D. Kennelly owns the cabin now.
It would be cool to reclaim the family manse on Reeves Drive, too, he told Krenelka. They might also ask questions about that house painter.
Is it true? Did a righteously angry father really grab his shotgun, walk over a couple of houses to confront the painter and shoot him right off his scaffolding?
J.D. smiled. He’s heard the story. So have previous residents of the home. But nobody seems to know for sure.
“When the house came up for sale, it did remind me that there’s a lot of family history here,” he said, gazing out from the second-floor turret windows at the neighborhood, maybe at the spot where a paint-splotched ladder Lothario once caught the eye of a bored teenager.
J.D. turned back to survey walls, ceilings, glistening hardwood floors.
“It looks probably better today than when it was built,” he said. “Somebody’s going to get a heck of a house.”
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