Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Minnesota Historical Sites ~ The Folsom House

Awhile back, I took on the task of cleaning out the storage area in my basement. I felt as if I was on an archaeological expedition! Which made me think of our next stop on the Minnesota Historical Society Tour we've been on for the past year.

The Folsom House is located in the St. Croix River town of Taylors Falls, MN. I remember visiting one hot summer day and being thoroughly charmed by the town, the house, and our tour guides, an elderly couple who lived on the site and watched over 'their house.' 

From the MNHS website, here's a description of the house and its history:

The Folsom House was completed in 1855 by William Henry Carman Folsom, a lumber baron, businessman and politician. It lies in the Angel Hill district in Taylors Falls which is noted for its concentration of New England style buildings.

About W.H.C. Folsom

W.H.C. Folsom arrived in the St. Croix River valley in 1846 at age 29. Born in Maine, Folsom left his family home at the age of 15 in search of work. He took jobs as a farm laborer, logger, camp cook and dam builder before settling in Taylors Falls in the hopes of establishing himself in the lumber business. Folsom invested in a variety of enterprises, including a hotel, a lumber mill and the first bridge to cross the St. Croix River. He became a respected community leader, serving as a state representative and six-term state senator. Folsom died in 1900 at his home in Taylors Falls.

About the Folsom House

Between 1840 and 1870 settlers from New England, and particularly the forests of Maine, arrived in the St. Croix Valley attracted by the timber. For a brief period it was the Northern white pine center of the world. In a setting of rolling hills, formidable rock outcroppings and thick forests that strongly resembled their homeland, the New Englanders built villages closely resembling those they had left. The national architectural style was Greek Revival, but homes in New England were often built without the high ceilings or shaded porches, in effect, applying Grecian detail to structures which were otherwise Georgian or Federal in style. The homes in the Angel Hill area are mainly New England variation of Greek Revival. The buildings are almost all built of solid white pine frame covered with white clapboard and trimmed with green painted exterior wood blinds.

The Folsom House is a two story wood clapboard home distinguished by the unusually delicate treatment of its front porches, Federal style details and the louvered fan lights in the pediments. The house is otherwise Greek Revival in style. Except for the portico at the main entrance, and for kitchen and bathroom updates, the house is essentially unaltered.

The Folsom House is furnished with the family’s original belongings, including a Hews rectangular grand piano, Folsom’s vast library, clothing and other personal items. Guides tell the history of the Folsom family, who lived in the home for five generations, and their influence on the development of the area and the state.

The Folsom House is a contributing building in the Angels' Hill Historic District, which was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1972. The district is characterized by a "homogenous group of mid-19th-century Greek Revival frame residences, public buildings, and church in the hills above the Taylors Falls business district."

So why did cleaning out my basement make me think of the Folsom House? When we visited, the guides told us that when the Historical Society took over the house, it had been in the Folsom family for several generations, and each time they redecorated or bought new furniture, the old furniture was placed in the capacious attic. The farther they got back in the attic, the older the furnishings became. When they reached the back of the attic, they discovered that W. H. C. Folsom's original, federal style furnishings were all there. The horsehide sofa, the piano, the books, and so much more. So now when you visit The Folsom House, it is full of William's possession, an excellent time capsule of early life in 1855 Minnesota. 

Taylors Falls is located on the banks of the St. Croix River, which was a major waterway for floating logs from the North Woods down to the sawmills in lower Minnesota and Wisconsin. Near Taylor Falls is a sharp bend in the river known as the Dalles. In 1886, one of the largest logjams in history occurred at the Dalles. More than 5 miles long, containing more than 150 MILLION board feet of lumber, the jam took months to clear--in the end, they resorted to dynamite to unclog the jam. 

You can learn more about the Folsom House, view more photos, and learn about special events on their Facebook Page:  

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ERICA VETSCH can’t get enough of history, whether it’s reading, writing, or visiting historical sites. She’s currently writing another historical romance and plotting which history museum to conquer next! You can find her online at and on her Facebook Page where she spends WAY TOO MUCH TIME!


  1. Historical sites are wonderful to visit. If only the furniture could share about the earlier days in the Folsom Home. Thank you for sharing this informative bit of history.

    1. I would love it if the walls could talk. What would we learn? What misconceptions would be rectified?