Creating a Happy, Colorful, Handmade Home & life on the shores of lake superior

December 29, 2011

Historic Haunted House Holiday

My parents, Hubby & I typically vacation this time of year but don’t tend to stray too far from home (although for our December honeymoon in 2008, Hubby & I travelled to Greece by our lonesome).  The last few years have been spent in a gorgeous townhouse equipped with the comforts of home (but better) and placed on Lake Superior.  Perfection.  But this year we rented an historic lakefront mansion (that’s what any home larger than 1400 square feet is to us) in Duluth, MN.  The experience has been . . . different.

(Here is the map Hubby made for us to find the house):

This home was once glorious: three bedrooms, 2.5 baths (not including the maid’s bedroom, with full en suite bathroom), a living room the size of our townhome’s main floor, a spacious light-filled sun room and a dining room that can easily seat more people than we know.  It is hard not to put an exclamation mark after every feature.  Hardwood floors, floor to ceiling windows and a sprawling yard (with a tennis court!) have us green with envy.  But the home has fallen into disrepair and the current owners, who do not live here but keep this home as a vacation rental, have done little to maintain it. 

Here are a few glimpses but please, please note that I have not touched any of these rooms for the photos.  You have no idea how much I want to stage, clean, de-clutter and otherwise organize.

Living room


Dining room

3rd bedroom (the two in use by us are now too messy to document)

Vintage pink and green bathroom

Blue bathroom with amazing built in vanity facing the lake

What would have been the maid's room (by the kitchen)

The maid's bathroom (which I kinda heart)

Here's the odd part:

The former owner, an elegant woman named Florence (who had three husbands and a degree in interior design) lived a fantastic life here, a life we have weirdly experienced via personal artifacts left abandoned in the home.  Photo albums, letters, cards, clothing, scrapbooks, home d├ęcor items, kitchen wares, books, etc., all tell an interesting story and shed light on life in the 1940s, 50s, 60s and 70s.  But rifling through them feels so indescribably strange. 
Staying here is akin to squatting in the once glamorous home of some famous heroine from a classic novel.  Working on my computer from my lakeview perch on an antique sofa, I feel like I should be writing a novel instead.  To be here for any other reason seems wrong.  (Indeed, fittingly there is no internet and my blogging has been done outside a motel with unsecured wireless, late at night). 
My favorite room

I love the living room because this is the view:

Living room view

Lake Superior

P.S.  Florence’s second husband died unexpectedly in the house in 1965.


  1. Wow... beautiful scenery and interiors... Those brass candlesticks are blowing my mind... And other goodies like artwork, MCM furnishings, etc...

  2. Did you see any ghosts or just the sense of a life and time gone by? It's somewhat sad but romantic. I LOVE the tile in the bathrooms.

  3. Oh to see that view every day! Jealous! The interior is gorgeous as well! I have to say though, I am slightly spooked by your description of Florence's life and her left behind things... What an amazing house to explore though!

  4. Gorgeous house! WOW!! Love all the pics you posted!

  5. No ghosts.

    But it is a very odd feeling being in this home. We've gone the "Vacation Rental by Owner" route before but either the home has been emptied of personal items, or most of the items have been hidden. Importantly, the items that have been in the home have belonged to the owners, not a woman who hasn't lived here for more than a decade, after spending 60 years here. It does have an odd, "ghostly" feel about it.

    Happy you all love the photos! Imagine if we could get in there and stage the bookcases, etc. We have already mentally redecorated and renovated, right down to refinishing furniture pieces.

  6. Wow, gorgeous! Enjoy. It makes me want to get away so badly.

  7. Oh, my house in Virginia was almost identical - minus the two additions on the each side! Except it looked way different inside! What a fun spot to vacation!

  8. Barbara, I am sure with your taste, style and DIY savvy your home must have been just lovely.

  9. Ha! looking for some stock photography of "houses in duluth" and chuckled to find this pic of a house in our neighborhood (yeah, we're not on the lake of course) --- you'll be happy to know that the home has been sold this summerish (2012) and has had dumpsters parked out front for several months, fresh paint and landscaping. Weird to have had a glimpse inside! by the way, I drive by that house 2x daily and had no idea it could be rented out...

    1. It was already for sale when we rented it and we were SO curious of it's fate! Apparently it sold for quite a bit more than what the gentleman had bought it for - lucky guy. It needed quite a bit of work. Carpet had been ripped up, but tufts of it remained!! I am so jealous you live on London Road - the whole street is beautiful and it was such a treat to stay on it. I am so curious what the new owners did but the home had so much potential that I dare say it probably looks (or will look) stunning!!

      P.S. I posted a few more photos of the house in this post:

  10. To: Tanya from Dans le Townhouse, I live in Duluth and have been driving by the house a lot with my mom, hence we live in Duluth and the house is stunning, a red door, big massive lights on each side of the door, fresh painting, the house has been restored. I like the guesthouse and the tennis court that I saw. we I saw it for sale, or my mom did, she fell in love with it, it seems like a house in the nancy drew/ hardy boys mysteries. It is beautiful, next time your in Duluth or if you live in or near by, you will have to drive by it!

    1. I drove by it in January and noticed the exterior changes (I love Duluth and travel there as often as I can - sometimes even just for a day trip). The house definitely looks well cared for now!! I wanted to stop, explain that I had rented it before and ask for a tour but my parents, although they thought about it, opted against it. If I am ever nearby with my husband, I'm sure he could be convinced. It definitely did have a Nancy Drew feel! I hadn't thought of that but that is a PERFECT description. Thanks so much for your comment, it's so exciting to chat with people who love the house also.


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