Freeberg home awarded Century Home distinction

By Eeric Buening, Correspondent 

The Freeberg home, aside from some minor landscaping changes, looks much as it did in a drawing of it done by Wes Sod, when the home was owned by the Moeglein family.
The Freeberg home, aside from some minor landscaping changes, looks much as it did in a drawing of it done by Wes Sod, when the home was owned by the Moeglein family.

The home of Conrad and Mary Rae Freeberg is one of two homes in the area to be awarded a Century Home Plaque by the Heritage Preservation Commission. The home, located at 315 SE Third St. in Little Falls, was built in 1902 by George F. Kirscher.

When the Freebergs purchased the Queen Anne-style house in 1981, they found that it came with an open air porch, gabled roof, original woodwork and a rich history passed down by the families that lived there before. The home was in good condition when they moved in. Even the original windows were all still intact. Other than stripping some paint to reveal the original woodwork the house needed little change.

The Freebergs decorated the home with furniture bought at auction. With each piece they paid careful attention to make sure it felt like it belonged.

In 2007, the Freebergs decided the kitchen needed to be remodeled. “Of course the challenge of updating an older home is that you have to walk the line between having modern conveniences without changing the house’s original character,” said Mary Rae.

They updated the kitchen with granite counter tops, custom cabinets and all new appliances. Great attention was paid to making sure the wood matched other wood work in the house. Even the shelves lining the wall make one wonder if they are new additions or original to the house.

Stairwell in Freeberg home made of original woodwork.
Stairwell in Freeberg home made of original woodwork.

Over the years, the Freebergs were contacted by several past owners and their children. Some people sent letters sharing pieces of the house’s history, while others stopped by in person.

“One man came by to see the house his father grew up in, then came by a second time years later to show his children the house their grandfather had grown up in,” said Mary Rae.

“I think, like us, everyone that has lived here has made their own little change that’s added to the house’s story,” Conrad said.

The previous owners were the Simonett family. John E. Simonett was an associate justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court. They turned a section of the porch into a music room, complete with a piano.

It was during this time that Van Cliburn was staying at Linden Hill. Cliburn was a famous pianist. One of his greatest achievements came in 1958, when, at age 23 he won the first quadrennial International Tchaikovsky Piano Competition. The competition was held in Moscow when Cold War tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union were at their peak. The feat catapulted Cliburn to international fame.

It is believed the Simonetts hosted Cliburn as a dinner guest and invited him to play the piano in the family music room.

Before the Simonetts, the house was owned by the Moeglein family. The Moegleins tore down the old barn that had been built by Kirscher in 1902. The Moegleins also built a garage and it is believed they added the modern heating and cooling.

Wes Sod's illustration of the Freeberg's home.
Wes Sod’s illustration of the Freeberg’s home.

During this time a local artist named Wes Sod lived just a few blocks away with his brother, Les. Sod liked to work with pencil and charcoal drawings and made a drawing of the house. Aside from some minor landscaping changes, the house looks the same today as it does in Sod’s drawing.

Austin Grimes was the second owner of the home after Kirschner. Sometime in the 1940s, he took on the task of residing the house. As the first person to make a significant change to the house, Grimes set a precedent for updating the Queen Anne-style house, while still maintaining its original character.

For the Freebergs the time has come to sell the house. Their children are grown and gone. A “for sale” sign stands at the street corner inviting a new family to become caretakers of a grand old house and keepers of its 112-year-old story.