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Heritage House wraps up another summer of tours

By Tom Weber

Post-Bulletin, Rochester MN

One of Rochester’s oldest buildings was open for tours again Sunday afternoon, and those who missed it will have to wait until next summer.

"We’d love to have it open more often, but we need more volunteers," said Meellee Fish, who conducted tours of Heritage House in Central Park on Sunday. "This is about the oldest public building in Rochester that’s open," she said.

The home, built in 1875 by grain merchant Timothy Whiting, originally stood in the 500 block of North Broadway. It survived the infamous tornado of 1883 but nearly fell victim to the wrecking ball before Heritage Associates, a local group of preservationists, saved the house and moved it to Central Park in 1972.

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The house is on the National Register of Historic Places and is open for tours only during the summer. Ten to 20 visitors come through on a typical day.

"I think people are surprised by the amount of things we have in here and what good condition it’s all in," said Jeannette Dunlop, 95, who has been conducting tours of the house for 20 years. "We allow people to walk around and get right up close and see everything. They really enjoy that."

The two-story house is furnished in Victorian-era style. There is an elegant front parlor that was used only when company came, plus the family’s second parlor, a library, a nursery and two bedrooms upstairs. The original house did not include a bathroom. A basin, pitcher and soap dish served that purpose in the bedrooms; toilets were in the yard.

"Many people who come here have no idea what it’s like to live without the modern amenities," Fish said. "You walk back in history when you walk in the front door."

Initially, the restored Whiting house was to be part of a small village-like setting of older homes, complete with street lamps. But people found then, as many have since, that saving older buildings in Rochester is difficult.

"By the time they got this one saved," Fish said, "the others were parking lots."

On the Web:

Heritage House: http://www.rochestermn.com/heritage/house/story-72.html

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