Many longtime residents of Fergus Falls recall the days in the 1950s and 1960s, when they were kids, of being dropped off at 940 W. Cavour Ave., to take piano lessons from the legendary Hazel Van Dyk.
This was, and still is, a stately Victorian house in a park-like setting positioned farther back than other nearby houses on West Cavour Avenue.
Hazel not only gave piano lessons at their home but also held piano recitals at the residence.
Her husband, Anthony (A.T.) Van Dyk, was a native of Holland who served as park superintendent in Fergus Falls.
His joy when not at work was tending to his expansive flower garden on the east side of his home during the summer months.
The new owners of this classic home are Krehl and Meghan Stringer who moved to Fergus Falls from Bemidji in July 2020. Pastor Krehl had received a call as chaplain at PioneerCare retirement community.
Meghan has been a piano and voice teacher for more than 20 years.
“I was amazed at the coincidence that I shared the same occupation with Hazel,” she said. “It must have been a sign that this house was meant for us.”
Krehl and Meghan say they were attracted to the home’s grandeur, history and immaculate preservation.
“When we toured the house, we were taken with the high ceilings and beveled glass windows in the dining and living rooms,” Meghan said. “We notice, with the sunrise, that the beveled glass acts as a prism and we see many little rainbows reflected on walls opposite the windows.”
She says the cranberry stained-glass upstairs is unique and beautiful. At sunset, pink is reflected off everything in the path of the sunlight from that window.
They say the carpentry and woodwork throughout the house is stately.
“We have a beautiful staircase with carved support columns,” Meghan said.
Krehl notes that there are 8-inch baseboards throughout the house, huge pocket doors, hardwood floors and beautiful wooden doors that have the original door knobs.
“On a practical level,” says Meghan, “we needed a home large enough to accommodate the antiques we have inherited and collected. People have commented that the inside of the house looks like a museum.”
Krehl and Meghan had enjoyed having 2 acres in Bemidji, so they wanted a large lot in Fergus Falls. The half acre was just right with not too much work but, at the same time, affording them the opportunity to enjoy the outdoors.
The property on West Cavour Avenue is indeed park-like with the number and variety of trees and beautiful gardens.
“We noticed the other homes in the neighborhood were well maintained,” Meghan said. “We have since enjoyed getting to know our friendly neighbors.”
Shortly after moving here, Meghan visited the Otter Tail County Historical Society Museum a half block to the west. She picked up a book, “Building from the Past,” written by James Gray and Marjorie Barton and published by the Fergus Falls Heritage Preservation Commission.
Page 107 describes their house.
They now have the abstracts of prior owners of the property. The oldest abstract
dates from 1871. A.T. and Hazel Van Dyk appear as “grantors” on the mortgage deed from March 25, 1940.
The Van Dyk name continued on the abstracts until 1966 when A.T. Van Dyk passed away.
Former piano students of Hazel Van Dyk recall the days of the 1950s and 1960s taking piano lessons in that stately house.
One of them is Janet Preus, a 1967 graduate of Fergus Falls High School.
“I’ll never forget Hazel encouraging me and saying, rhythmically, ‘Sink to the bottom of the keys.’ She was an excellent piano teacher.”
Four houses to the west of the Van Dyk house lived Charley Johnson who took piano lessons from Hazel for three years. He later became a TV news anchor in Fargo.