Photos by Hillary Ehlen | Historic photos provided by Audrey Farol
Over the years, these breathtaking historic homes have transitioned from residential to commercial properties. Recently, some of their former glory has been returned by the current owner, Audrey Farol. Now, she has opened their doors to share the time and effort that she and her family have put into these loving restorations.
The Gray House
This house was built in 1907 for just $10,000, which is worth about $250,000 today. Milton Earl Beebee was the architect. He also designed NDSU’s South Engineering Building. In 1972, the house was sold from the Lewis Family to Wayne Solberg and Garylle B. Stewart. Together they turned the home into the headquarters of their car accident lawyer firm, Solberg Stewart Miller.
Farol is the daughter of Stewart. After he passed away last year, Farol and her sister, Elizabeth Stewart, inherited The Gray House and part of the Plum House from their father. Along with her sister’s late partner, Charles Willette and other members of the family, Farol started working on the first floor of the The Gray House with the goal of preserving it for the 21st Century without compromising its historic character.
“I wanted to keep it in the family, no matter what it took,” said Farol.
Stewart restored the oak woodwork on the beautiful staircase and window seat. Now, Farol has picked up where he left off by refinishing most of the wood floors.
“Eventually I would like to change this back into a home. I think that would be really amazing.” – Audrey Farol
Farol’s father planted this pear tree in the lawn between The Gray House and The Plum House. Someday, he had planned to connect the houses with an underground tunnel because Solberg Stewart Miller had offices on both sides.
The Carriage House
Behind The Gray House is a well-preserved carriage house. It still has two horse stalls inside. Because Farol’s family owns race horses, she wants to use the carriage house to showcase their memorabilia.
The Plum House
The Plum House stood at 402 8th Street South for 87 years and was going to be torn down in 2001. However, Stewart convinced his partners at Solberg Stewart Miller to relocate the house to its current lot instead of building a new office on the same site. “It was going to be demolished, but he said ‘no,'” Farol explained. Stewart wanted to make sure that the new office looked as if it belonged in the historic area.
In 2001, streets were closed to make way for the house. “It was quite the adventure,” Farol said. Stewart and his late fiancée, Judy Cooke, passionately restored the original woodwork throughout the house. Though he was ambitious, Stewart was physically unable to see all of his plans to fruition. Now, Farol and her sister have honored their father’s memory by picking up where he left off. Together they will continue to care for The Gray House and The Plum House and preserve them for the next generation.
The tile in The Plum House is original and closely resembles the tile Farol tried to imitate in the front entrance of The Gray House.
Gokey Immigration Law
Gokey Immigration Law began renting the first floor of The Gray House in March 2017. The Gokeys have special ties to this area. In fact, Snyder Gokey’s father had his office in The Plum House for 50 years. “As a kid, I used to empty wastebaskets for them for 25 cents a day,” he said. Meanwhile, Mary Gokey’s great grandparents lived in the house right across the street.