Bill and Sandy Backowski of Little Falls were recently presented with a plaque from Don Opatz with the Heritage Preservation Commission, for their century home in Little Falls.
“It’s an honor. This house is a treasure. I feel like it really deserves the honor,” Sandy said.
The Backowskis purchased the home on Lindbergh Drive North in 1975 from Lou and Len Ginter. When the two realized Sandy was pregnant with their first child, Ben, they wanted a house they could see themselves living in for a long time. They both also worked in Little Falls.
“We were just attracted to the arts and crafts style of the house. It was just a beautiful and well-built home. It has a lot of character,” Sandy said.
Even though the Backowskis don’t know much about the history of the house, they’ve discovered some interesting details.
The house, located a couple of blocks from the Mississippi River was built in 1911. By whom is unknown to the Backowskis.
However, from the abstract, the couple knows George Peterson was the first recorded person to have lived at the house about a decade after it was built. Peterson was married to Beatrice Dewey-Radke. She was one of five children of a very well-known family in Little Falls. Peterson also owned a grocery store on the west side with Beatrice’s brother, Frank Dewey.
A few years ago, a friend of the Backowskis discovered a needlepoint of the century home. It was stitched by Beatrice and her sister, Dessie Dewey Lehrke in 1936.
“She had just been at an auction where the needlepoint of our home had been sold. It was in a box of several other pictures that George Melby, who owned the gift shop ‘Memory Lane,’ had bought. She encouraged us to buy it from him,” Sandy said.
The needlepoint which now hangs in the couple’s kitchen gives an insight into what the house looked like back then.
The original color of the house was a cream color, Sandy said. The house also originally had four bedrooms, but now has three after the Backowskis knocked out a wall to expand the kitchen.
The original kitchen was about 13-feet by 8-feet compared to its current size of about 23-feet by 14-feet.
In the original kitchen, the stove was placed near the back door in a way that made it impossible to get in if the oven door was open.
The interior of the house had wallpaper in vivid colors with a typical flowery pattern — including the ceilings. When the Backowskis removed the wallpaper, some rooms had five layers of wallpaper.
“The last wallpaper in the dining room was a bright orange color with large flowers on it,” Sandy said.
Originally, the house had a fireplace where wood was burned. The Backowskis replaced it with a gas insert after squirrels climbed down the chimney and into their home.
Sandy said she and Bill had returned one day when they discovered a squirrel hanging on the screen door, looking out.
Because of the soot in the chimney, the squirrels left behind black paw prints all over their house.
“It was bad,” Bill said.
The yard has seen some changes over the years, as well. When the Backowskis purchased the house, 13 elm trees provided nice shade. However, they are no longer there after Dutch Elm Disease killed the trees, Bill said.
Since then, the couple has replanted some trees and have also added flower gardens.
The original landscape around the house had hedges on the north and south side.
“They just got old and needed to be removed,” Bill said.
Knowing how old the house is, the Backowskis said they both find it hard to grasp they’re really living in a century home. It is a solid house that has withstood many seasons.