Couple looks to sell nearly 100-year-old 'grand house' in Oakes
OAKES, N.D. — Living in a historic home for nearly 13 years was a dream come true for Kathy Bourne. For nearly three decades, she lived on a farm south of town but drove by the home constantly, often wishing she could find a way to call it hers.
After her first husband died, Bourne, who is 73, eventually met and married her husband, Richard "Dick" Bourne, who is now 81. She told him how much she'd always admired the home, so he arranged a tour for her.
"He ended up loving it as much as I did," Bourne says. They visited a second time just to take another look, but soon after, the owner put a "For Sale" sign in the yard.
"I didn't think I could leave my farmhouse, but it turns out I could," she says.
Home's history tied to creamery
The home's history is closely tied to the early days of the community of Oakes. At the start of the 20th century, the North American Creamery Company opened a storage branch office across from the city's railroad station. The company soon became one of the largest employers in Oakes.
By 1915, company President Walter Noonan decided to move to Oakes to run the creamery and its regional outlets in North Dakota, South Dakota and Minnesota. Two years later, the Oakes facility doubled in size — an expansion prompted by the increased demand for dairy products during war time, according to a June 5, 1930, Oakes Times article.
Noonan built the grand home in Oakes in 1924, a testament to the company's success. But six years later, Noonan and his family no longer lived in Oakes, so he donated the home to the Sisters of St. Benedict to create St. Anthony Hospital. In 1955, the hospital closed and the home changed hands a few more times. At one point, the home was an apartment building and later served as a bed and breakfast.
The home was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1987.
In 2002, Bourne saw her dream come true when she became the home's new owner. However, a year ago she and her husband put the home on the market because his failing health from a brain tumor required fewer stairs and less home to take care of.
'Enjoyed every minute'
In the nearly 13 years she lived in the home, Bourne says the couple entertained their large blended family comfortably within the more than 6,000 square feet of space. The group of nearly 30 people had ample space to visit and roam around, but Bourne says they always ended up gravitating to one area of the home: the den.
With its stone fireplace, warm wooden built-ins and inviting yellow walls, the cozy den turned out to be a great place for the family to relax and spend time together.
"Everybody always ended up congregating there, tiny as it was," Bourne says. "It was just so cozy."
Living in a nearly 100-year-old home required surprisingly little upkeep, thanks to previous owners who made important changes. For example, the woman the Bournes bought the home from had converted the heating system to geothermal, which drastically reduced monthly heating bills. Another converted a basement room to an additional bedroom.
The Bournes remodeled the kitchen, removing one wall to open up the space and replacing the old cabinets and appliances with new ones. They also converted the wood-burning fireplaces to propane.
Other than that one project, the home didn't require other upgrades.
"It's a grand house and rock solid," Bourne says, noting its three fireplaces were constructed with materials from Italy.
With its spacious hallways and staircases, Bourne thinks a young family with several kids would enjoy the large house and abundant yard, while their Realtor, Deb Knigge, says the home could also serve as a bed and breakfast.
People have shown interest in the property, but the house remains for sale. Bourne says she worries potential buyers are scared by the sheer size and age of the home, but they needn't be.
"I think people just think it's an insurmountable amount of home to keep up, but it really is not," she says.
No matter what, both Bourne and Knigge say the most important thing is finding someone who will care for the home and its impressive history.
"Kathy and Dick did such a nice job taking care of the home, and it means a lot to Oakes and the people in town," Knigge says. "But you have to find the right person to take care of that large of a property. A lot of people in Oakes take pride in that house, so we just have to find the right person to buy it."