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Folsom House, Taylors Falls

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Front facade of Folsom House

The front facade of Folsom House in Taylors Falls, Minnesota. Photograph by Wikimedia Commons user McGhiever, June 8, 2008.

The Folsom House (272 Government Street, Taylors Falls) is an excellent example of New England Greek Revival architecture in the rural Midwest. Its owner, W. H. C. Folsom, designed it to be both modest and a showcase of his well-established wealth. Officially finished in 1855, the house alternately follows and departs from national trends in architectural history within Minnesota.

William Henry Carman (W. H. C.) Folsom was born in 1817 in New Brunswick, Canada. In the early 1840s he immigrated to Maine, where he met his future wife, Mary Wyman. They married and eventually moved further into the United States, settling in Stillwater, Minnesota. While in Stillwater, Folsom invested in the pivotal industries of the time––most notably the lumber mills of the St. Croix River––and the blossoming real estate opportunities in both Minnesota and Wisconsin. His investments paid off, and he amassed a notable fortune for himself and his wife. In 1849, he also began to get involved in Minnesota’s territorial politics.

The Folsoms purchased property in Taylors Falls in 1854, while they were still living in Stillwater. The property was on the gateway of what is now colloquially referred to as the Angel Hill District of Taylors Falls. At the time of Folsom's purchase, the neighborhood was not yet established. Because of Folsom’s status, however, his family’s move attracted other similarly financed individuals to move to the same area; together, they created the identity of the neighborhood. The property did have a barn built on it at the time of purchase, so the Folsoms moved into it when construction on the house began. They cleared the land of its white pine, milling the lumber in order to build the structure.

The house was officially finished in 1855, and the Folsoms moved in. At this time, the family consisted of Mary Folsom, W. H. C. Folsom, and the couple’s sons, Wyman and Frank. The new house had two parlors, a study, a formal dining room, a wood shed, an outdoor kitchen, an indoor kitchen, five bedrooms, and a full basement and attic. Although it was not small by the standards of the day, the home was specifically designed to reflect Folsom's Methodist beliefs, with extremely simple motifs and decor that were almost entirely the opposite of Victorian trends of the time. Originally, the external walls of the house were white clapboard and green trim; for a brief span of time, however, the outside was painted yellow with green trim.

In the mid-nineteenth century, the Angel Hill District of Taylors Falls became an area known for its Greek Revival houses, including Folsom’s. W. H. C.’s political affiliations as a representative in Minnesota’s legislature and a pivotal contributor to the state’s constitution attracted notable figures to the house during the 1860s, including Alexander Ramsey.

The house stayed in the family until 1970, when the Folsoms donated it and all of the artifacts inside to the Minnesota Historical Society. It became a public museum in 1972, and in the same year was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. In 2022, it continues to operate as a historic house museum managed by the Taylors Falls Historical Society in partnership with the Minnesota Historical Society. It retains much of its original 1850s design, but there are renovations throughout the interior, particularly in the kitchen and the study.

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Cavin, William Brooks. “Angel’s Hill Historic District.” National Register of Historic Places nomination form, December 1, 1970. Record Group 79: Records of the National Park Service, 1785–2006. National Archives, Washington, DC.
https://catalog.archives.gov/id/93200210

​​Folsom House. Minnesota Historical Society.
https://www.mnhs.org/folsomhouse

Folsom, William. Fifty Years In The Northwest. St. Paul: Pioneer Press, 1888.
https://www.google.com/books/edition/Fifty_Years_in_the_Northwest/vloUAAAAYAAJ?hl

Historic American Buildings Survey. “W. H. C. Folsom House, Taylors Falls, Chisago County, MN” (HABS MN-29-16). Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, Washington, DC.
https://www.loc.gov/pictures/collection/hh/item/mn0061

Historical Marker Project. “Folsom House - Taylors Falls - Mn - US.” Historical Marker Project, October 25, 2014.
https://historicalmarkerproject.com/markers/HMTK5_folsom-house_Taylors-Falls-MN.htm

Seitz, Greg, Andy Kramer, and Dave Pauley. “Historic Home Marked Finish Line for St. Croix Valley Settler's Long Journey.” St. Croix 360, October 27, 2021.
https://www.stcroix360.com/2021/10/historic-home-marked-finish-line-for-one-st-croix-valley-settlers-long-journey

Related Images

Front facade of Folsom House
Front facade of Folsom House
Folsom House ca. 1860
Folsom House ca. 1860
Folsom House ca. 1915
Folsom House ca. 1915
Folsom House ca. 1925
Folsom House ca. 1925
Folsom House elevation views and floor plans
Folsom House elevation views and floor plans
Folsom House elevation views and porch-door diagrams
Folsom House elevation views and porch-door diagrams
View of Folsom House and barn from the southwest
View of Folsom House and barn from the southwest
Folsom House, ca. 1955
Folsom House, ca. 1955
Bedroom in Folsom House
Bedroom in Folsom House
Dining room in Folsom House
Dining room in Folsom House
Sitting room in Folsom House
Sitting room in Folsom House
Side and rear of Folsom House
Side and rear of Folsom House

Turning Point

In 1972, the Folsom House is brought into the public trust and becomes a museum managed through a partnership between the Taylors Falls Historical Society and the Minnesota Historical Society.

Chronology

1854

W. H. C. and Mary Folsom purchase land from the city of Taylors Falls and move into the barn on the property.

1855

The house is officially finished, and the Folsom family moves in.

1862

During the Civil War, the Folsoms’ son Wyman enlists in the Union Army at seventeen years old.

1881

The Folsoms mourn the death of their son Frank W.

1891

The Folsom family celebrates Mr. and Mrs. Folsom’s fiftieth wedding anniversary with a large party at the house. Prominent Minnesota politicians and public figures attend.

1896

Mary Folsom dies.

1900

W. H. C Folsom dies.

1960s

The Folsom family renovates the house––particularly the kitchen and study.

1970

The family donates the house to the Minnesota Historical Society.

1972

The Minnesota Historical Society and the Taylors Falls Historical Society open the house as a museum. The house, as well as all of the Angel Hill District in Taylors Falls, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.