Chatfield bed and breakfast welcomes people to the 'city's house'
Oakenwald Terrace shows off Ellen Lovell’s exquisite vision for the home as the original owner in 1896. Bob and Ruth Ann Lund have shared stories of the home's history as bed and breakfast owners since 2003.
CHATFIELD — A family legacy in the making, owners Bob and Ruth Ann Lund of Oakenwald Terrace Bed and Breakfast, or the Lund House, are in the storytelling business.
The Lunds share their hours while giving tours and answering people’s questions about the home's history at 218 Winona St. SE, Chatfield. That’s the core of running a bed and breakfast — the people — as Ruth Ann said.
“The reason I like the bed and breakfast is all the fascinating people we meet, all walks of life,” Ruth Ann said. “It’s just very fun.”
Guests, neighbors and travelers often notice the unique architecture, built in the Shingle Style of 1880-1900, and pause to ask for a tour. The Lunds welcome any who ask.
The tradition marks the home’s legacy as the “city’s house.” The home previously served as a residence, as Chatfield Lutheran Church, as a rental home, nursing home and assisted living home. The businesses simply held on to the history — until Bob's parents, Marion and Shelby Lund, set out to preserve the history.
“(Marion) was just such a good steward of the house,” Ruth Ann said. “She tried to bring things into the house that were from the era. Most of the things in the house are from that era, and if they aren’t like the parlor furniture … that’s actually a replica but most of the furniture in the house is old, very old.”
The two loved antique shopping and planned to convert the home into a bed and breakfast one day. With pieces related to American history and more items Marion enjoyed, the home carries her touch much like the original owner, Ellen Lovell. Mrs. Lovell built the home for her daughter Anna in 1896 with seven bedrooms, 73 windows and 68 doors.
As the planned recipient of the home, Anna’s is the “premiere room,” as the Lunds described it, with a large bathroom, changing room and fireplace. Mrs. Lovell’s room features a large parlor, and her son Frink's room had three closets. Amongst the four floors, the front included family quarters and the back servant quarters.
“We tried to hang onto some of that original history by naming the rooms,” Ruth Ann said.
In a 125-year-old home you don’t expect to hear the word original, though the home boasts light fixtures, bathrooms and woodwork from the 1890s. The National Register of Historic Places lists Oakenwald Terrace for its architecture as an “unaltered example of the Shingle Style.” As a “high-fashion style,” the “ Shingle Style de-emphasized applied decoration and detailing in favor of complex shapes wrapped in cedar shingles,” according to Wentworth, a design-build firm in Maryland.
The home’s grand features were shown off at Anna’s wedding — one day after the family moved into their home in February 1897. With a third-floor dance party, four-piece orchestra and trains chartered for the event, guests likely also marveled at the home’s construction and indoor plumbing.
“The house was really state-of-the-art,” Ruth Ann described. “(It) had four indoor bathrooms when plumbing really didn’t exist in rural Minnesota at the time, and it was wired for electricity before Chatfield actually had electric service. She knew it was coming.”
With 10 months of construction, the house was built for over $20,000 when other homes, like a farmhouse, could be built for $800, according to the Lunds. Mrs. Lovell’s exquisite vision for the home was stopped at no expense. She paid for closets in every room, over the traditional wardrobes, which increased the taxes on the home. The taxes were based on the number of doors in the house, Bob said.
Many of those large closets changed to bathrooms when the Lunds opened their assisted living home, and made the transition easier to bed and breakfast in 2003.
“They really did everything right when they made this house, and in the world we live in now, everything seems to be based on Walmart price drops and I can find this online for 10 cents cheaper on Amazon, and I don’t have to even drive to Rochester to do it,” Bob said. “Here they went above and beyond and did things probably too well. They were willing to spend the money to get what was top of the line then, even when the average stuff was a whole lot better than what we have now.”
Guests continue to enjoy these features, and learn the history of rooms and furniture even if they’ve heard the story before or stayed in the same room each visit.
“Oftentimes the guests find their way to the room that seems coolest to them,” Bob said. “Then they come back and that becomes their room.”
The glitter and glam of the home will shine for a Christmas open house from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. Dec. 10 and 11. For their one open house each year, which went virtual in the pandemic, the Lunds deck every room in Christmas cheer. As the “really talented” Christmas decorator, Shelby Lund shared his Bachman decorations and flower arrangements before he passed away in 1999.
“It’s amazing how many people we get each year that come in to say, ‘We’ve lived in Chatfield our whole life and we’ve always wondered what it looked like inside,’” Bob said. “It’s kind of the city’s house too.”
The city also celebrates the history around the home with neighbors like the Haven family, who were town bankers after Jason C. Easton, who owned the land where Oakenwald Terrace, the Haven house and Lucian Johnson house were built. The Haven house , also known as The Oaks, is also on the National Register of Historic Places.
But at the Haven house, it’s an exterior stone wall that garners the most interest. George Haven Jr., who started building the stone wall in the 1920s with rocks from Chatfield and around the world, was also a childhood friend of Frink. By the time Bob met him at 85 years old, Haven had gone blind but he still knew the path of his stone wall and the stories of building it over 30 years.
The Haven family recently gifted the stone wall to the city, which will add a pathway to the wall and walkways around it.
“We talk about the history of Chatfield and the neighborhood and the wall with all of our guests, and that’s probably the coolest tourist attraction in southeastern Minnesota,” Bob said. “It’s something our guests have been able to experience for the last 20 years, and it’s been fun for me to tell the story about George, and blind George building this crazy wall with all these cool rocks in it.”
These stories share the Lunds’ value of historic preservation because “That’s Oakenwald. That’s us,” the Lunds said. “That’s what we do.”
If you go
What: Christmas open house
When: 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Dec. 10 and 11
Where: Oakenwald Terrace, 218 Winona St., Chatfield
Cost: Donations of $5 per person for the American Heart Association are suggested