Historic Stillwater home hits market

William Sauntry’s “Alhambra” has been restored and is for sale. (Photo by Spacecrafting)

Long before the ease of travel on a modern airplane, the rich in Victorian-era Stillwater could only build dream renditions of far off places. A piece of Stillwater’s turn-of-the-century entertainment style is now for sale as a luxurious home with modern amenities.

In 1902, lumber baron William Sauntry built a lavish home on Stillwater’s North Hill. When fellow business men, friends and family ventured out of their St. Paul mansions, Sauntry wanted to entertain in fanciful style.

Inspired by the 14th-century Moorish palace of Spain, Sauntry’s “Alhambra” was designed by Chicago architects with extravagance in mind. The entertainment pavilion included an indoor marble pool, bowling alley and, most spectacularly, a ballroom with gold plasterwork and stained glass mimicking the famous Moorish palace. Once linking the main home and the ballroom, guest crossed a covered skyway and walked down a double stairwell.

After Sauntry’s death in 1914, the corridor connecting the Sauntry’s home and recreation hall were torn down and the property was subdivided in two. In 1920, the beautiful Moorish plasterwork was covered and the building was converted into a three-unit apartment.

Judi and Marty Nora purchased the unique property in 1999.

A drop ceiling was installed in the ballroom that covered the original stain glass and plaster work.

“They put the ceiling in to make it cheaper to heat,” Judi said.

Working with Doug Henning of Henning Church and Historical Restoration, the Noras worked to turn the three-units into one functioning home for their three small children.

When work began to restore the ballroom, the Noras were told that it would be easier to take down the plaster and canvas ceiling and start over, as about 45 percent had been damaged.

“Judi was not happy about the idea of taking anything away,” Marty said. “She wanted to keep as much of the original features as possible.”

Using photographs from the county and state historical society and any architecture features they could find remaining in the house, the Noras restored what they could, repurposed what they had and made additions when necessary.

The 20 ornate lights with 3,200 beads of the ballroom were hand-blown in India when a family friend took one of three originals on a trip. Tiles that once covered the indoor pool now cover the floor in the modern, gourmet kitchen. The bowling alley made way to an apartment unit that has since become three bedrooms.

“If you look next to the closet, you can see the toe line for the original bowling alley,” Judi points out.

The Noras call their home “a party house” from its historic origin and have enjoyed entertain neighbors and guests for the last twenty years.

“It’s a great neighborhood,” Marty said. “Really kid friendly. We pass out tons of candy every Halloween.”

The Noras’ children have all grown and moved out, leaving the home quieter.

“It’s time to move on,” Judi said. “We plan to go somewhere a bit warmer.”

Realtor Richard McDonough is hosting an open house Sept. 28 for realtors to begin the process to sell the unusual home.

“It’s going to be a buyer that is looking to be a part of community and wants a unique home,” McDonough said. “This is not for someone looking for a new build.”

The Noras said they hope another family who wants to be a part of the Stillwater community purchases the home and loves its historic qualities.

The asking price for the home is $1.6 million. More information about the home can be found at richardmcdonough.com.