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Willmar, Minn., property that was home to members of prominent family is for sale

This house at 836 Ella Ave. N.W. was built in the early 1900s and was the residence of Mason and Ella Spicer and Russell and Margaret Spicer. The house was placed on the National Register of Historic Places 27 years ago. Tribune photo by Ron?Adams

WILLMAR -- A two-story house connected to the family of early Willmar businessman John M. Spicer will be open for public viewing Saturday.

The house at 836 Ella Ave. N.W. was built in the early 1900s and was the residence of Mason and Ella Spicer and Russell and Margaret Spicer.

Mason and Russell were among eight children of John and Eliza Spicer. The elder Spicer was a railroad official and promoted land development in Kandiyohi County.

The Willmar Republican Gazette of Feb. 5, 1903, published a story about the wedding of Russell and Margaret Spicer. After their wedding tour to New Orleans and Mexico, the story said, the couple would be occupying their new home, which Spicer was having built. The address of the home was not published.

A 1907 Willmar telephone directory listed the Ella Avenue home as Russell Spicer's residence. Russell was president of First National Bank. The same directory listed Mason Spicer as attorney and manager of Spicer Farms.

According to Kandiyohi County Deed Record No. 37, Mason and Ella sold the house and property in January 1909 to Russell and Margaret.

The current owners, Mike and Pam Peterson, bought the house in 2003 and are now offering it for sale.

Peterson said he built a new porch on the house after receiving approval from the Minnesota Historical Society because the house was registered as a historic house. Peterson also built the stone pillar fence in front.

Peterson is a locomotive operator at Southern Minnesota Beet Sugar Cooperative of Renville and Pam is a teacher at Roosevelt Elementary School in Willmar. Peterson says their children are no longer at home and the house is too large for them.

The type and style are described as classical revival. It has hand-made leaded glass throughout. The banister, floors in the formal living room and dining room, pockets doors, dining room walls and built-in are all of solid maple.

The house has seven bedrooms, two living rooms -- a formal living room and a regular living room, and formal dining room and regular dining room. Peterson said a former owner who enjoyed entertaining installed a commercial kitchen.

Real estate agency Re/Max Preferred Realty is handling the sale, and the open house will be from 9 a.m. to noon Saturday. Peterson invites people interested in the history of the structure to take advantage of the open house.

"Many people have had a desire to look through the house and now is the perfect opportunity,'' he said.

About 30 years before the Ella Avenue house was built, John Spicer built a house at 515 Seventh St. N.W. (formerly known as Nelson Avenue) in about 1873. Spicer sold the house in 1912.

The house featured Victorian architecture with clapboard siding, gables and bay windows. In October 1986, the State Historic Preservation Office announced the house was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

That structure is now in foreclosure and has fallen into disrepair. Last week, the City Council ordered the owner to make exterior repairs or the house may be demolished.

David Little
David Little covers the Willmar City Council, Willmar Municipal Utilities and other city news.
(320) 235-1150