3127 Second Ave So: Josiah B. & Mary E. Hudson House

One of the jewels of the Healy Block Historic District

Built: 1890
Cost estimated on building permit: $6,000

This, the fourteenth house that Healy built in the district, was the family home of Josiah B. and Mary E. Hudson. J. B. Hudson began as an apprentice jeweler in Ohio in 1868 and opened his first store in 1876. He arrived in Minneapolis in 1886, the same year as T. P. Healy, and founded J. B. Hudson Jewelers that year. It was renamed J. B. Hudson & Son in 1905 because his son Walter was working in the business. J. B. Hudson Jewelers still operates today in the Young-Quinlan Building on Nicollet Mall.

Before 1893, Healy was referred to as a “master builder,” meaning that he was both the designer and builder of houses. But in 1905, when J. B. Hudson hired Healy to build another house at newly fashionable address of 1776 Colfax Ave. So., the design work was carried out by architect William Channing Whitney, This change became the norm around the turn of the 20th century as architects were professionalized and became state-certified. Whitney was the most prominent domestic architect in Minneapolis at the time.

Two photos of the brand new Hudson house show its striped canvas window awnings. In 1936, the exterior was covered with asbestos siding by Anna Fisher, who operated the building as a boarding house. Because her modification was done on the cheap, it was relatively easy for owner Bruce Grosklags to remove the siding in the late 1970’s when he restored the house. Bruce also opened up the front porch, removed much of the boarding house infrastructure, replaced the Moorish cap above the third floor front window, and painted the house brick-red and green.

Andrew Gage and George Fisher continued the restoration and painted the house olive green. They hired local historian Dave Wood to do a house history. After they learned of the Hudson connection from Bruce Grosklags and other neighbors, they contacted Hudson’s granddaughter and received numerous photos of the house. In a June 27, 1984 interview in Equal Time, Andrew Gage said they were not restoring the house just for themselves; instead he said they were doing it “for the city of Minneapolis, for anybody who takes an active interest in the aesthetic qualities of design architecture. People should learn to understand and appreciate the integrity of the architecture of the house they live in, rather than compromising the architectural concept of their home for modern conveniences to decrease maintenance.” Andrew and George lost the house to foreclosure.

When David Piehl bought the house in 1992, it had been vacant for three years. He re-sided the entire house with redwood siding and restored much of the exterior gingerbread detail, employing carpenter and neighbor Pete Holly from down the block at 3111 2nd Ave. David had the Hudson family photos copied to guide the restoration. Pete Holly fabricated a new Moorish cap to go above the third floor attic window. Century Studios reproduced the stained glass windows that had been stolen after Andrew Gage and George Fisher left in 1989. David and his partner Robert-Jan Quene hired St. Paul painter and colorist Neil Heideman to design the exterior color scheme for the house—four shades of green, four shades of red, and black. Heideman also designed the color schemes for 3131 2nd Ave. and 3139 2nd Ave.

David Piehl also spearheaded political advocacy for the block. In the 1990s, he led the effort to prioritize restoration over demolition through the Neighborhood Revitalization Process (NRP). He also successfully led the pushback on two occasions when MnDOT proposed moving the freeway closer to the Healy Block houses. For these efforts David has been dubbed the “Mayor of the Healy Block.” His partner, Robert-Jan, planted beautiful gardens and organized the neighbors to plant trees on the freeway slope to act as a visual and sound barrier.

The house survived a burst pipe that flooded the back end on the bitterly cold day of February 11, 2014. The kitchen, dining room, pantry, back staircase, upstairs bathroom, one bedroom, and part of the hallway were all gutted and rebuilt. David received an award in 2016 from the Heritage Preservation Commission, the Minnesota Chapter of the American Institute of Architects, and Preserve Minneapolis for his restoration efforts.

The Hudson house has all the quintessential features of a Healy Queen Anne. It is cross-gabled with the side gables subordinated to the main ridge. The attic triptych of windows is unified and capped by a projecting “eyebrow.” The second floor porch under a Healy-signature cantilevered third floor is decorated with fretwork, turned posts, a balustrade, and a patterned frieze. There are paired arch-top Moorish windows over single-pane windows on both the first and second floors. The front porch has fretwork, turned posts, a balustrade and a skirt with scroll work cutouts.

The first floor features another Healy signature: a curved corner with a curved glass window. There are double, paneled entrance doors. The first-story corner bay is round with a metal roof. The original metal roof cresting was supposedly donated to the war effort during WW II by Anna Fisher. David Piehl has plans to restore the cresting in the future. The south side has a two story bay. There are two open porches in back. The house is now surrounded by a wrought iron fence.

In a July 2, 1999 article in Lavender, Gary Schiff wrote “The story of the rise and fall of the urban American neighborhood has been told many times in the past two decades. But the contributions of the gay and lesbian people who embody a new pioneer spirit of renewal are often overlooked.” Amen to that.

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