Estate sale for former U.S. Senators Quentin and Jocelyn Burdick includes historic and personal mementos
The estate sale at the late couple's south Fargo home takes place Saturday. Nov. 12 and Sunday, Nov. 13
FARGO — For Birch Burdick, the house he was raised in, 1110 9th St., S., Fargo, is full of memories. He’ll take the memories with him, but his family is parting with the house and its historic contents. An estate sale will be held this weekend with the house to be put on the market after.
Since around 1960 the house was home to former U.S. Senators Quentin Burdick and his wife Jocelyn, who left behind mementos from the late politician’s career as well as artifacts of local and regional history.
“When you do a standard household estate sale, you don’t get this historical stuff,” says Julie Hilgers of Triple J Estate Sales, which is organizing this weekend’s event. “It’s fun to do something different. It’s one of the most historical sales we’ve seen.”
The bungalow was built in 1927 by Jocelyn’s father Albert. Over the years it was added on to and shortly after Jocelyn and Quentin married and merged their families in the early 1960s, it housed eight people.
Quentin died in 1992 and Jocelyn was appointed to fill out his term before a special election. She remained in the house until around 2010, when she transitioned to a smaller space. She died in 2019 at the age of 97.
The house is filled with keepsakes of trips the couple took together, like an 18-foot oriental rug in the living room and a similar one in the dining room.
Jocelyn liked to entertain and the dining room and kitchen are filled with vintage plate sets, service ware and glasses including a painted tea cup set by local artist Gracie Palmer.
Giving a tour of the house, Birch explains how the family would eat most of the meals in a breakfast nook while the dining room was more for special events.
“This dining room leaves me with the smell of burning pumpkin,” he says with a smile, explaining how they have a special birthday dinner for Jocelyn’s father on Halloween with a candle burning in a pumpkin by the front door.
Jocelyn liked to host dinner parties and as her circle of friends grew older, she sat Birch by those who were hard of hearing so he could keep them company.
While she liked to host, she was always ready for a potluck or to bring someone a hotdish, like tuna noodle with cornflakes on the top, Hamburger Helper or corned beef with potatoes. Her dishes were so popular a friend gave her a baking dish painted, “Jocelyn’s Specialties.”
Besides a newer refrigerator and paint — inspired by a trip to Hawaii, Jocelyn had the kitchen and breakfast nook wallpapered in colorful floral print — the kitchen remains largely untouched since the 1960s, including a vintage Frigidaire above-range oven.
“My father was not much of a cook. When he was in Washington, he would often graze at gatherings,” Birch recalls. “The one thing he did cook was a Thanksgiving turkey stuffed with his own dressing of bread, apples, raisins and onions. He wasn’t always much of a cook, but he was quick to help clean up.”
A sitting room in the back of the house was later turned into a bedroom, but now holds shelves adorned with political mementos like a mockup of a billboard announcing “You are in U.S. Senator Burdick Country” and a bumper sticker from the 1988 campaign, Quentin’s last. There’s also a stack of paper plates printed with the U.S. Senate emblem
A straw hat promoting Kennedy for President sits on a shelf. John F. Kennedy came to Fargo in 1960 to stump for Quentin.
While Quentin was a Democrat, he reached across the aisle and there’s a picture of Quentin and Jocelyn with President George H. W. Bush and First Lady Barbara Bush. There’s also a cut crystal paper weight given to Jocelyn from a First Lady’s Luncheon.
On the same shelves there’s a framed sign that states, “A woman’s place is in the House and Senate,” a reflection of the family’s strong feminist roots. Jocelyn’s grandmother was suffragist Matilda Joslyn Gage and the family has a collection of books Gage wrote with Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, but is holding onto them.
There are lots of vintage books available in the sale, many with regional ties, including “Tales from Buffalo Land,” written by Quentin’s father Usher in 1940.
“I would advise against building built-in book shelves because they have a habit of collecting books,” Birch says with a laugh.
There are also saddles from Usher’s horses for sale and a fur coat Jocelyn wore.
While many of these items conjure memories for Birch and his family, they are ready to let them go.
“It’s bittersweet because we are not making good use of this house now and I think someone else will. But I have a lifetime of memories and its hard to let go,” he says.