In the spring of 1887 the writers of the Public Opinion were excited after just having viewed the plans for Homer D. Walrath’s new home. When the home was finished in January of 1888 the newspaper described each room in the residence in great detail. The home was a credit to its owner and a gem in the young city of Watertown, Dakota Territory.
For many years the home, which later became known as “Olive Place”, sat in the center of a city block. The home was eventually surrounded by trees and accompanied by a large car- riage house and a windmill. Homer and Emma Walrath had moved to Watertown from Iowa and were among the earliest residents of the prairie town. Homer opened a bank in partnership with his brother-in-law Sam Sheldon on the corner of Kemp and Broadway.
When cars came into fashion the family sold the carriage house and built a garage. The carriage house became a private residence on 3rd Street NE. The Walrath family then built a garage for cars.
In 1966 the home was sold and moved to its current location on Highway 81. Mount Olive Lutheran Church was built in its place and took a bit of its name too.
In early 2016 Robert and Catherine Gjerdingen were planning their retirement from their home in Wilmette, Illinois. They could go to just about any state but one with no income tax would be nice. Catherine looked online and thought maybe the west coast and then Bob found a house online in Watertown, South Dakota. It was close to the farm where they spent their summers in northern Minnesota.
Catherine and Bob visited the beauti- ful home and they both agreed this would be the place for them. In July of 2016 the Gjerdingens purchased the home at 2517 4th Street NE from Darlene and Mike Gudmunson.
The Gudmunsons had taken great care of the home and the Gjerdingens wanted to continue that tradition into the future.
After moving in they found that their lifetime of collecting furniture from here and there did not help the home live up to its potential. After looking online again they found the David Heide Design Studio in Minneapolis. They sent an email asking for some advice and sent along a link to some pictures of the home. Within the hour they had a return call from excited members of the firm who wanted to work with them.
For the last year and a half the Gjerdingens have been working with a group from the design studio, and local contractor Jay Grabow to research, collect, and make plans for the future of the home. While they would like to stay as close to the historic guidelines as possible it is still their home and not a museum so they will do what they can that is within reason.
Currently there are three binders for the project which contain history of the home, history of the Walrath family and information regarding the current restoration and preservation projects.
One big step that is coming up in the next few months is moving the home. Originally, Olive Place sat in the center of a city block between Maple Street and 2nd Street NE and 7th and 8th Avenues NE. In 1966 the home was moved north of town to its cur- rent location. The Gjerdingens plan to move the house back into the city limits and back to the center of a city block by putting it on the property that was formerly the location of the Tree Farm on 14th Avenue West and 2nd Street North.
Several porches must be removed prior to the move and some rotten boards are being replaced. After these projects are completed the home will move west down a gravel road and then south on 2nd Street until it makes its way to its new location in the center of the lot. During this move the house will also be returned to its original orientation with the front facing south.
In 1888 when the home was built it was accompanied by a carriage house and a large windmill. The carriage house was moved and became a private residence located at 710 3rd street NE. The Gjerdingens are discussing, with the carriage house’s current owners, the possibility of adding the original carriage house to the new property.
The Gjerdingens are excited about their plans for Olive Place, and the Codington County Historical Society is excited that our community has added two people so dedicated to historic preservation. Check the Codington County Heritage Museum Facebook page for updates on when the move will take place.