Washington County Historical Society purchases Boutwell house

The demolition of the late Rev. William  Boutwell's house in Stillwater was put on hold Jan. 29, after HGTV star  Nicole Curtis intervened. (Gazette staff photo by Jonathan Young)
The demolition of the late Rev. William Boutwell’s house in Stillwater was put on hold Jan. 29, after HGTV star Nicole Curtis intervened. Now the Washington County Historical Society has purchased the home for the purpose of preservation. (Gazette staff photo by Jonathan Young)

The Washington County Historical Society will finish what HGTV star Nicole Curtis started. The historical society has purchased the 19th-century home of Rev. William T. Boutwell in Stillwater for $600,000.

The organization closed on the property at 12588 Boutwell Road the morning of May 28, and plans to restore the partially demolished home to its former glory.

Crews began demolishing the house the morning of Jan. 29. Before it progressed far, Curtis showed up and asked the owner to put demolition on hold so she could explore options for saving the property. The house has sat partially demolished since.

The historical society plans to restore the building and seek to have it added to the National Register of Historic Places, according to Brent Peterson, the historical society’s executive director.

“It’s overwhelming, but we’ve got that exciting feeling,” Peterson said. “We’re ready to jump in with both feet on this project.”

“An opportunity like this doesn’t happen often,” said David Lindsey, chair of the board of the historical society. “For an organization like ours to be able to take advantage of the opportunity to save a property and save some history of this significance — not only from the county perspective but from the state perspective — is so very cool.”

Boutwell was a missionary who accompanied Henry Schoolcraft on the expedition that discovered the headwaters of the Mississippi at Lake Itasca. Boutwell helped name the lake. He also helped organize Stillwater’s first Presbyterian congregation in 1849, which still exists as First Presbyterian Church on Osgood Avenue.

The historical society is paying for the property with a mortgage from a local bank, but Peterson said it will cost an estimated $300,000 to $400,000 to renovate the property, which is in poor  condition. Curtis is playing a “supportive” role, Peterson said, but the society will need to raise funds for the project.


“We’re going to need the support of the community to make this happen,” Peterson said.

A blessing of the house is scheduled at 11:30 a.m. May 28. Rev. Cader Howard of First Presbyterian Church — the congregation Boutwell helped organize — will read from one of Boutwell’s Bibles, which is preserved in the historical society’s collection.