An old mansion on Cathedral Hill in St. Paul, which had gone through foreclosure, will soon be converted into a Montessori school and a bed and breakfast.
Whitney Blessing, along with her husband, Andy, who is a contractor, are fixing up the place, which once belonged to Frank P. Shepard.
The Shepards were a prominent family who had four homes within a block of one another, she explains.
Through the years, the 14,000-square-foot mansion had gone through many changes, most recently serving as a boarding house for an international school, according to Whitney.
This month, the Blessings will open the Cathedral Hill Montessori School
in the home’s 1950s addition.
It’s just the first part of the Blessings’ concept for turning around the place, which is also their sixth home renovation.
The couple and their two children will move into the 1884 portion of the house. But the 1881 original structure will become a four-guest bed and breakfast. Separately, large dining and living rooms will become community meeting spaces.
Altogether, they'll probably end up spending $500,000 on the renovation, she says.
“I think this house will never be the original Queen Anne Victorian that it was before the 1940s, when it turned institutional,” she says.
That being said, “We wanted to put something here that would be available to anyone in the neighborhood who should need those services.”
The 1880s areas of the home and the carriage house are considered to be contributing structures to the surrounding historic district. "We want to maintain the historic character," Blessing says.
Much of the work that they’re doing, from restoring the original hardwood floors to uncovering fireplaces, is cosmetic. Utilities also need to be upgraded, while previous mop closets will be turned into bathrooms for the bed and breakfast’s guest rooms.
The neighborhood has been supportive of the project, she says. “[The house] is part of the history and we want that to stay intact and maintain the integrity and open it up for the community to see and be a part of and enjoy.”
Source: Whitney Blessing, homeowner, Frank P. Shepard mansion
Writer: Anna Pratt