Archived Story

Tour of festive holiday homes this weekend

Published 12:04pm Thursday, November 14, 2013 Updated 12:04pm Thursday, November 14, 2013

Local residents will open up their homes this weekend for the 2013 American Association of University Women Holiday Tour of Homes. The event is from noon to 5 p.m. Saturday at four homes in Fergus Falls.

This year’s homes include Paul and Missy Hermes, Robert and Lois Josephson-Russell, Mary Ferguson and Sarah (Tuel) Duffy.

Tickets are $15 each and can be purchased at Service Food, Victor Lundeen’s and The Market on Union Avenue. Or you can contact an AAUW member or email ffaauw@yahoo.com. Tickets will be available the day of the event at the Fergus Falls YMCA where the Tour of Homes reception will be hosted.

Only children 13 years old and older may attend. No photos may be taken in the homes.

The first tour of homes was co-sponsored by AAUW and the “Mothers of Shover Nursery School,” on Nov. 9, 1963, just two years after the local branch of the AAUW was chartered in 1961.

The tour has taken on many different formats over the years, including Tables on Tour in 1980, when the focus was on themed table settings, menus and food items from those menus.

The AAUW advances equity for women and girls through advocacy, education and research. Since 1881, AAUW has been one of the nation’s leading voices promoting education and equity for women and girls.

For more information, visit www.ffaauw.blogspot.com


Homes on the Tour

• Paul and Missy Hermes

624 N. Woodland Drive

This home was built by Fergus Construction in the mid-1990s. Bob Batzlaff, the builder, and his family lived in the home in Woodland Heights, and although the friendly neighborhood has many homes, the house is surrounded by trees and has a secluded, rural feel. The home has a tree house in the backyard.

It has vaulted ceilings and hardwood floors. Previous owners added the detached garage and shop building which has in-floor heat.

Many of the wall surfaces were painted by Roberta Skibness of Battle Lake. She also repainted and re-stained the decks and railings on the front and back porches.

The top floor has two bedrooms, a full bathroom and a craft, scrapbooking and sewing room. The closet storage space and window treatments were designed by Jeanine at Cullen’s Home Center. Vintage furniture was refinished by Fergus Falls resident, Linda Swanson.

The main floor has a formal dining room with cherrywood family and vintage furniture. Cullen Home Center also designed the drapes and blinds and reupholstered the chairs in this room.

The family room has a gas fireplace and features maps and globes representing the Hermes’ travels. The map over the fireplace is of Chad, Africa, where Paul and Missy met.

The master bedroom includes a spa tub, tiled floor and glass block shower. The kitchen has granite countertops.

The man cave in the basement is a sports lover’s paradise that doubles as a musician’s corner and gamer’s hideaway. Room-darkening shades keep out daylight. It also has a wet bar, recycling area and beer fridge. The hub of the room has three televisions, meaning three different games, or two games and the Red Zone, or a movie, and two games, etc. can be on three different screens simultaneously.

Beyond the TV mecca is the wine cellar. This room was designed and built by Paul and his father. Roberta Skibness painted the walls and did the massive staining project of the shelves which can display and store more than 900 bottles of wine. A 196-bottle wine chiller keeps white and sparkling wines at an optimum temp. Cullen Home Center designed and installed the lighting and flooring.

The basement also has a bedroom, a full bathroom and storage areas.

• Decorated by: Victor Lundeen Co., Cullen’s Home Center and Ben Franklin’s.


Robert and Lois Josephson Russell

506 S. Union Avenue

This Georgian Colonial Revival home was built for Robert and Mary Hannah in 1907. It was modeled after Hannah’s home in Ayrshire, Scotland. Lauritzen Brothers constructed the home. Lauritzens built many of the distinctive brick buildings in Fergus Falls, including the post office, the River Inn and Hillcrest Academy.

The European larch tree in the front yard is also from Scotland and was planted to celebrate the birth of Hannah’s daughter, Louise. She was an only child.

This is not the first time this home has taken part in the AAUW Tour of Homes. Its last appearance on the tour was in 1997, after a remodel and update project. The most recent incarnation of the Hannah home is far different from what we would have seen back in 1907.

The Fergus Falls Heritage Preservation Commission booklet, Building From the Past, has the following description: This red brick home has a hip dormer roof with sidelights, six-over-six windows and symmetrical facade. The walls are 18 inches thick, constructed of two layers of brick with an air space between. The house was gutted in the 1940s when it was owned by Cyrus and Louise (Hannah) Wright, and the floor plan changed considerably. The parlor, library and the maid’s stairs were eliminated.

Dormers were added to light the third floor, and a third bathroom was added.


Post-1997 update

The Russells have also made some dramatic changes to the original structure. An addition was added to the south, increasing the size of the kitchen and creating a seating area. The square footage was increased and areas of the home that had once been storage became beautiful living space and guest bedrooms. A 2008 remodeling project was finally reaching fruition when disaster struck.

On Labor Day 2011, a plumbing mishap on the third floor sent thousands of gallons of water cascading throughout the home, filling it with water and causing thousands of dollars in damage. One craftsman involved in the 2008 project described the accident as “overwhelming” and “demoralizing.”

The home had to be gutted, floors to ceilings and walls. Furnishings, artwork and books had to be specially restored. The family gives much credit to Tony Metcalf, a local contractor, who “put this house back together.”

From the moment people enter the front they will experience the rebirth of this home. Even the front door is brand new. However, the grandfather clock belonged to Lois’ parents.


First floor

Notice the three-piece crown moldings, exact replicas of the originals that had to be replaced. The colonial blue paint is original to the home – a difficult process of matching and mixing.

To the west is a sitting room with a non-working fireplace. The mantle is believed to be original to the house or to the 1950s remodel. Beyond is a music room (once a three-season porch) with a view of the Otter Tail River.

The kitchen has a cozy sitting area for perusing cookbooks. An under-the-counter TV is so handy. The countertops are from St. Cloud quartzite, a substance harder than marble but softer than granite. The floor is tile. Appliances include a sub-zero fridge and an induction stove.


Second floor

The master suite has a functioning fireplace. Jay McDougall made the custom dresser/armoire. The master bath has tile floors and spacious closets. The wall-mounted fixtures are necessary due to the floor joists.

In the guest bedroom and elsewhere, you will find custom built-ins created by Joey Devorak such as the mirror and small table in the guestroom. The full bathroom has an original cast iron tub which has been refinished. The radiators were also refinished with powder coating by 59 Finishing LLC on Pebble Lake Road. Notice the wonderful repro door knobs.

In the Winnie-the-Pooh nursery (ready for grandchildren) the murals were created by Kris Gyolai, who taught at M State before transferring to a Twin Cities campus. She came back to recreate her darling murals. According to Lois’ daughter Laurel, “This was the hardest room for me [to lose]. We were very grateful.”

Also on this floor is a laundry room with murphy bed-style ironing board and corian countertops. When asked about the fear of water from the washing machine, the family responded that the home now has a water system with many checks and an alarm system.

Beyond the laundry area is a new space, a sunroom that Lois loves to work in. The blinds, from Olson Furniture, all run on remote control. The room has access to the decking and electric radiators.


Third floor

This part of the home has changed so much and was not on the 1997 TOH. You will see occasional wrought-iron stabilizers on the bannisters. These were created by Steve Jaenisch.

The third floor is now a livable space with two guest bedrooms and a wet bar in between. Notice the curved walls and skylights. Lois is a huge fan of natural light.

Tyler Syverson of TS Pro Install installed the tile floors in the bathrooms which have radiators. The bathtub is an air tub.

Joey Devorak made the custom cupboards and book shelves. The duct work up here is hidden within the window seats.



The basement is also a new addition to the TOH. As you round the corner to the right you will notice storage space original to the home — a canning cupboard and potato/onion bins used by Mrs. Hannah.

Directly across is a wet bar that once served as cold storage. The bookshelves hold a fraction of the many books once owned by the family. Many volumes were lost in the flood.

The wonderful roll top desk was a special piece that had to be carefully restored. This was Lois father’s desk from his years in the state senate. He was the President pro tem from 1971-1972 session.

Other spaces on this level include a craft room, with walls painted by Lois Atchison, with an original concrete sink, a map storage unit now a table and many spacious cupboards. A play room under the music room has storage for Lois’ classic toy collection. A convenient three-quarter bathroom has a leaf motif vinyl flooring from Cullen’s Home Center.

Look for her chalkboard from her childhood home in Minneota.



Visitors will notice much of the artwork speaks about the Swedish heritage of Lois such as the Carl Larsson prints. Many pieces also feature St. Paul, the place where Bob grew up and where the two of them met while serving as legislative pages. Lois spent some time growing up in St. Paul; her father was a state senator from Minnesota.

Local artists show pride of place with pieces by Charles Beck, Budd Andrews and the stately Fergus Falls Regional Treatment Center.


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