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David and Wanda Park House

Contributor: 
Beltrami County Historical Society
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David Park House

The exterior of the David Park House, 2016. Photograph by Gary Rozman. Used with the permission of Beltrami County Historical Society.

The David Park House in Bemidji is an outstanding example of residential Streamline Moderne architecture. It was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1988.

The David Park house (1501 Birchmont Drive Northeast) was built in 1936‒37 for the Park family by a young unknown architect named Edward Mahlum in an undeveloped neighborhood on the north end of Bemidji. By choice, it was in a wooded area across from one of the earliest buildings on the campus of the Bemidji State Teachers College. The neighborhood included Diamond Point Park, which was a rustic camping area, and a popular small zoo. Little else, however, existed in the way of residential development. David Park bought the entire block of land, giving him control over the choice of neighbors.

David Park purchased the Koors Brothers Creamery Company in 1926 and converted it to the David Park Creamery and built it into a highly successful business enterprise. He promised his wife that he would eventually build her a fine home. He attended the Chicago World’s Fair in 1933, and this exposure to the Art Deco designs (featured in that fair’s theme of “Century of Progress”) likely influenced his choice of Edward K. Mahlum as his architect. He chose a local contractor named Adolph Nasvik to build it. Nasvik was so impressed with the home that he later built a home next door, which some consider complimentary to the Park residence.

The home was featured in Larry Millett’s book Minnesota’s Own: Preserving Our Grand Homes because of its unusual and beautiful design. Viewed from the air, it appears to be in the shape of a piano. The house was built of poured concrete, which was most unusual at a time when most homes in northern Minnesota were built of wood. One of the most remarkable features was a three-story brass railing on the curved staircase. It was necessary to install the railing at an early point in the construction before the house could be closed in around it.

David and Edna Park moved into the house in late 1937. Edna had only a few short years in the house as she died of cancer in 1941. He married Wanda Hartman Batchelder in 1944.

The neighborhood children were fascinated with the house. Each Christmas, the family allowed one of the Park grandchildren to choose the colors for a gigantic Christmas tree that was placed in the front window. In one year it was a white flocked tree with orange lights; in another, it was a purple flocked tree with white lights. Visitors and locals also marveled at one of the home’s inhabitants in particular: “Megaw,” the family’s pet monkey.

David Park was proud of his unique home. His daughters, Margaret and Mary, recalled that he often invited guests to tour the house even though they were already asleep in their rooms. He loved to entertain, and one of his most famous guests was Eleanor Roosevelt. When she visited Bemidji in 1955, Park was shocked to learn that no one had planned a reception for her. As was his custom, he organized an impromptu reception at the house.

Park continued to live in the home until his death in 1977. In 1992, Wanda Park deeded the house to the Bemidji State University Foundation. The building underwent extensive renovations, but workers took care to retain its original interior elements and style. In 2018, it houses the offices of the Foundation and the Alumni Association.

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© Minnesota Historical Society
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  • Related Resources

David Park House. National Register of Historic Places nomination. https://npgallery.nps.gov/GetAsset/8f270c17-916a-4708-a7a3-65e81911bbcc/

“The David Park House” Common Ground, Lakeland Public Television, Bemidji. First air date December 1, 2011.

Millett, Larry. Preserving Our Grand Homes, Minnesota’s Own. St. Paul: Minnesota Historical Society, 2014.

Wesley, Bethany. “A Walk in the Park: David Park House Featured in Book on Historical Minnesota Homes.” Bemidji Pioneer, November 21, 2014.

Related Images

David Park House
David Park House
David Park House
David Park House

Turning Point

The Park family sells the house to the Bemidji State University Foundation in 1992.

Chronology

1936

Architect Edward Mahlum designs the house.

1936

Adolph Nasvik of Bemidji begins to supervise construction of the building.

Fall 1937

David Park and his family move into the house.

October 1955

David Park hosts a reception for Eleanor Roosevelt.

May 16, 1988

David Park House is added to the National Register for Historic Places.

1992

The property is sold to the Bemidji State University Foundation.

1990s

The house’s material—poured concrete—complicates the updating of wiring and plumbing; renovators use the original laundry chute as an interior channel.