There’s something charming about an old radiator, and the history in original wooden floors. Some paint has been added and a few other details have changed, but four cozy apartments nestled above Lincoln Avenue tell a story of generations.
Constructed at the turn of the 19th century, Olson Furniture used to be both a women’s clothing store and an insurance office. Four apartments sit above the historic store and offer a haven above downtown Fergus Falls, with so much beauty in the details. Within each unit, wooden moldings frame open-concept doorways and highlight large windows. An arched doorway between the apartments makes one stop and appreciate architecture that you don’t see much of anymore. Enormous windows—north-facing in one apartment and south-facing in the other—flood each unit with natural light. A claw-foot tub sits stoutly on its perch as it has for 100 years and maybe for 100 more. Antique decorations mixed with new touches create a feeling of enhancing history, not attempting to disguise it.
While the furniture store is on its fourth generation of family business, nearly the same can be said about the past residents of the apartments upstairs. Current business owner, Keith Olson, and his wife, Kim, lived in the apartment in the early 1980s when they were first married. That wasn’t the first time Keith had been in the apartment, though; years prior, his grandmother’s sister lived in the unit. “I remember we’d have Easter dinner up there when I was a little boy, before we even owned this building,” Olson says. The tradition continued a generation further. Years after their own residency, two of Kim and Keith’s daughters lived in the unit, as well as several nieces and nephews. These units have also housed an array of members of the Fergus Falls community: a member of a local band, a pizza maker at a local restaurant, an employee at the bakery, contributing to the town’s community-centered charm.
Not much had been done to renovate the apartments until Kim and Keith viewed the project as a chance to conserve their historic beauty. They removed the carpeting, and sanded and refinished the floors themselves. Other updates included a new backsplash in the kitchen, full cabinets, and painting several rooms. The brown wood-paneled walls made the rooms feel smaller, and took attention away from the beautiful maple floors. Neutral colors like grey and white instantly cooled down the rooms, enhanced the wooden accents, and enlarged the space.
Wanting to share these assets with the public, the Olsons listed the south-facing unit on Airbnb. The primary tenet of a bed-and-breakfast is offering a homey space, and these apartments offer the feeling of “home,” no matter how temporary the stay. Change may continue, but these units will continue to offer sanctuary, hopefully for generations to come. The feeling of “home” transcends time. Keith fondly reflects on his time spent living in the apartment to this day. “It was awesome. I’d go back and do it again. It was a wonderful place to live. Those things, growing up, creating that life, those memories are priceless to me.”