Growing up in Minnesota, John Kistler learned to admire the unique architecture of his state, which features pioneers of the time like Cass Gilbert and Harry Wild Jones. As the population in the state rose, city officials chose to demolish old properties to make room for taller buildings that would accommodate more people.
“Ultimately, we lost a lot of priceless historical properties that defined the root cultures of great cities like Minneapolis and St. Paul,” says John Kistler of Minnesota. “We can’t go back in time to save them, but we can make sure that no historical properties fall into disrepair or get demolished in the future.”
John Kistler regularly invests in projects that preserve local Minneapolis architecture and prevents the wreckage of what many would consider to be worthless properties. He helps return architectural marvels back into livable homes ready for purchase. Without his intervention, that last surviving structures of the 19th century––that once represented the heart and soul of Minnesota’s most notable cities––would be torn down to make room for modern skyscrapers.
Protecting the historical landmarks that helped secure Minnesota as a major force in turn-of-the-century architecture, John Kistler has secured a national reputation as a leading preservationist.
Harry Wild Jones’ Oakland Apartments of 1889
One of the state’s most celebrated architects, Harry Wild Jones built a range of 19th-century structures in the Twin Cities that epitomized the iconic time period. The Oakland Apartments, which were built in 1889 by Harry Wild Jones, are some of the oldest examples of downtown shared-entrance apartment complexes. His complex stood as a sturdy abode for a century before falling into disuse and disrepair by a number of tenants and owners.
The building was set to be demolished by code inspectors, but local preservationists like John Kistler of Minnesota banded together to block the move. Kistler personally invested a large portion of the renovations as well as secured the rest of the funding through the help of local historic preservationist groups.
The Eugene J. Carpenter House
The Eugene J. Carpenter house was built in 1906 and remained in the Carpenter family
until 1946. Over the years, it was purchased by several owners who all changed the property in some significant way. Many of those changes demeaned the original character of the house as walls were put up to divide rooms and the home was converted into an office space.
Falling further into disrepair, John Kistler of Minnesota helped purchase it and transform the main living quarters back into a livable home. The property was placed on the National Register of Historic Places and today stands as a model achievement of historic preservation.
For years, John Kistler of Minnesota has served as an ally to historic properties in the state and has ensured a variety of housing marvels avoided demolition. He helps preserve a distant memory of grandeur and architectural achievement that marked the end of the 19th century.
Restoration expert John Kistler is passionate about preserving local Minneapolis architecture and frequently invests in projects preventing historic properties from being demolished. Recently, Kistler helped save the Oakland Apartments from wreckage which were built by Harry Wild Jones in 1889.
When city code inspectors demanded that owners demolish the historic Oakland Apartments, local preservationists banded together to block the move. The Oakland Apartments, built in 1889 by master architect Harry Wild Jones, are recognized as the oldest downtown example of the shared-entrance style of apartment complex. Their demolition would mean a true loss of Minneapolis’ rich history were it not for investors and preservationists like John Kistler.
“Everybody has looked at it to not make a [financial] loss. But the loss is going to be if we lose the building,” John Kistler said.
Instead of appearing on the market after suffering a fire, the property was deemed beyond repair and listed for demolition by city officials. The Heritage Preservation Commission voted to deny the demolition permit requested by the city, and so the Oakland apartments went on sale. At first, most of the prospective buyers refused to pay the assessed $600,000 the property was worth (due to its state following the fire). But then John Kister, Norman Kulba, and an unnamed partner struck a deal with the owner to purchase and restore what could be restored.
John Kistler and Norman Kubla have partnered in the past on historic restoration projects with huge success. Thanks to their combined efforts, the team saved the Eugene J. Carpenter and restored it to its former glory. For the Oakland apartments, they set out to remake the complex into 24 units of affordable housing downtown.
“The building itself is a really strong indicator of a different time and place,” John Kistler said. “It’s a really amazing building that was built at the height of when people were needing housing right downtown that was walkable to everything — because even the streetcar system wasn’t very developed at that time.”
Officials of Minneapolis preservation projects, as well as the Preservation Alliance, noted that Oakland is one of the last surviving remnants of the 19th-century residential architecture that once populated the downtown area. Much of this architecture was lost during reconstruction efforts in the 60s, and the Oakland Apartments along with Minneapolis’ early row houses are all that’s left of an era long passed.
Due to a faulty electrical outlet, the building caught fire in 2016 and seemed beyond repair––beyond showcasing its historical significance to future generations. Thankfully, John Kistler stepped in to protect one of Minneapolis’ last architectural gems from the 1800s.
“We just like these old places and feel like Minneapolis is a cool city because of the history and what it’s gone through,” John Kistler said. “When we lose them, we lose a little piece of our city’s heritage.”
The Eugene J. Carpenter house had fallen into disrepair before John Kistler of Minnesota discovered it as his next passion project. The historic home featured 17,000 square feet of property, which includes 5,000 square feet of its vintage carriage house. Much of the property was either unfinished or unfit for prospective buyers before John Kistler found it, but his dedicated work and his vision for its future has seen the Carpenter house restored to its former glory.
John Kistler of Minnesota has for years been an ally to the historic properties around his home state and has lent his talent for restoration projects for years, helping housing marvels avoid demolition. He and others working to preserve historical landmarks partner with public agencies, businesses, municipal organizations and more to keep properties from falling into neglect. Without their effort, grand historical homes like the Eugene J. Carpenter house would be lost to time and the elements.
Eugene Carpenter was a Minneapolis lumberman who served as vice chairman of the Minneapolis Society of Fine Arts, which eventually established the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. The Carpenter house showcases the Georgian Revival style of architecture and was designed for Eugene and his family by the prominent Minneapolis architect Edwin Hewitt over a hundred years ago.
Originally constructed in 1906, John Kistler affirms the house remained in the Carpenter family until 1946. Since then, it has passed through the hands of several owners who’ve left their marks on the property, many of which demean the original character of the house. In 1977, the house was placed on the National Register of Historic Places for its rich history and iconic representation of the Georgian Revival style. Within the last ten years or more it served mainly as an office space before owners attempted to divide up its sections and sell the property as a single-family home.
John Kistler of Minnesota had bigger plans for the property than its division or sale to any single owner, however. He laid out a plan to convert the home into a bed and breakfast, which would help to bring in a profit for continual upkeep while honoring the original architecture and allowing visitors to admire its beauty during their stay. To restore it to its original glory, John Kistler helped craft plans to rebuild the porch that had been torn down, repaint the home, and conduct extensive woodwork and rockwork around the property.
Today, visitors from around the world can commend and appreciate the work of John Kistler of Minnesota and the Minneapolis-based Adsit Architecture and Planning – as well as the restored architecture of Edwin Hewitt – at the 300 Clifton B&B.
Historic preservation is a weighty task that requires teams of dedicated people to keep old homes, historic areas of town, and monuments from falling into disrepair. Home improvement and restoration expert John Kistler shares his understanding of historic preservation in the hopes that it will inspire new projects across the country.
Citizens like John Kistler are involved in historic preservation efforts to conserve and protect what remains of historic buildings, landscapes, and other items that carry great significance. Without their help and dedication, historic objects are left to the elements and can be privately owned, which means they are capable of being damaged, altered, or demolished without repercussion.
John Kistler and other historical conservationists work in partnership with businesses, local organizations, property owners, and public agencies to locate or label historic properties and objects. Their combined efforts preserve meaningful national landmarks that may have otherwise been lost to time.
Historic preservation hasn’t always been at the forefront of society’s concerns and didn’t come into mainstream attention in America until the mid-19th century. One of the first major preservation efforts was the Washington’s Headquarters State Historic Site in Newburgh, New York. In fact, it was the first ever historic property in America that was designated and kept up as a historic site by the state.
Since then, people all over the country have recognized historic landmarks in their cities and local communities, joining organizations that fight the degradation of their sacred monuments.
Some people don’t understand the importance of preservation, but John Kistler has plenty to say on the subject. When asked why he thinks people get involved in historic preservation in the first place, he replied:
“Historic preservation is a way to promote the unique character of an area while protecting what may be a major piece of history. People realize that without their help, these national and local treasures will disappear and may be forgotten forever. They preserve historic sites to keep these places alive both in reality and in our memories.”
The mission of many historic preservationists is to preserve significant locations in time as best they can, and in doing so protect cultural representations that may pass from history books. They accomplish preservation by donating time, money, and resources to maintaining landmarks and inspiring the community to get involved. In a way, historic preservation helps protect the heart of communities as new buildings go up, new people settle in the area, and lifestyles change.
“Those looking to get involved,” says John Kistler, “can find projects across the country from places like the National Park Service. The site includes activities at all levels of preservation, from donations and physical restoration projects to neighborhood surveys and documentation efforts.”
Because historic preservation requires help from both public and private entities, John Kistler hopes that sharing his passion with others will inspire more people to protect the rich history of their own communities.
Minneapolis, MN is the largest city in the state of Minnesota and has a long history of ownership that extends back centuries. Residents like John Kistler and local supporters treasure the city because of its colorful past and the monumental events that secured its place in American geography, history, and industry.
The city of Minneapolis is situated on both sides of the Mississippi River, lying west of St. Paul and just miles from the Canadian border. Residents of the area, such as John Kistler, and Minneapolis enthusiasts appreciate the city for its rich history that extends back hundreds of years into the past.
“Minneapolis is so much more than half of the Twin Cities,” says John Kistler. “It has a wild history behind it. Minneapolis was initially claimed by the French nearly a hundred years before America was even born.”
The territory that we know today as Minneapolis was visited on a French expedition in the late 1600s. A priest that accompanied the sailors on their journey to the New World explored the area and came upon the Mississippi’s only waterfall, naming it Saint Anthony Falls after his patron saint. It was the expedition of this priest and the fellow men of his voyage that led the French to believe the Minneapolis area belonged to them.
The Spanish then laid claim to the area before it went back to the French, and then to the revolutionaries where it persisted as a municipal tug-of-war. It was only later negotiated into a sale that America secured through the Louisiana Purchase from Napoleon Bonaparte.
John Kistler from Minnesota notes that the Americans truly established their presence in the area by building the famous Fort Snelling in the early 1800s. Fort Snelling extended the United States jurisdiction over the area and served to ease concerns about any British nearby. The soldiers that camped at Fort Snelling required food and supplies and looked to the surrounding nature to establish things like roads, vegetable gardens, wheat and hay fields, and acreage where they raised cattle. Three years after the Fort was constructed, the men of the area built a lumber mill and a grist mill on the river’s falls to keep the fort consistently stocked with supplies.
“From the soldiers cultivating the land for Fort Snelling you have the beginnings of civilized life in the area which would later become the Minneapolis and St. Paul districts,” says John Kistler.
A few decades after Fort Snelling was established, President Millard Fillmore reduced the Fort Snelling reservation and opened the area up to more settlers. The settlers kept coming until a sizeable amount saw it fit to name the area, and they called it Minneapolis, or the “city of waters.”
John Kistler notes that the mid-1800s ushered in the first bridge in the area (built over the Mississippi) to allow for more and improved traffic in and out of the Minneapolis. Shortly after, The Minnesota Legislature incorporated the University of Minnesota, which saw a rocky start before a final reopening in 1869. Today, the university is a highly-respected institution with tens of thousands of students studying there each year.
John Kistler and others remark on their city’s turbulent beginnings and claim to see the history written plain and simple in the architecture, land, and people of present-day Minneapolis.