ST PETER —
Mark Ahlstrom loved the house. “He carried a picture of it in his wallet,” Judy Ahlstrom said. So as they looked up to the sky as they shivered in their home, they didn’t consider leaving or demolishing it, Judy Ahlstrom said.
Her husband just turned to her and said, “Let’s go find Ron Goodrich. We wanted to beat the rush.”
Mark Ahlstrom — who “was quite a handyman himself” — respected the Mankato construction company owner’s reputation for restoring historic buildings.
Goodrich agreed to send over people from a restoration project at the nearby Cox House. Soon, workers had rigged a temporary cover to keep out rain, then they began the top-to-bottom restoration.
The Ahlstroms stayed with friends temporarily but soon went home to an adapted lifestyle that included a Goodrich crew and its numerous projects.
Workers arrived as early as 5 a.m. and climbed ladders to get to work in the attic. Sometimes at the end of the day, they joined the Ahlstroms for cocktails. Occasionally, the crew prepared barbecue in the backyard.
“They became like part of our family,” Judy Ahlstrom said.
Randy Dinsmore was one of the regulars — he coordinated the yearlong project.
Fourteen years after the job was finished, Dinsmore’s love for the architecture of the old house still shows.
“It was a rare opportunity we almost never get to have,” said Dinsmore, who has years of experience in remodeling and restoration.
“I find it more interesting to find solutions to existing problems,” he said. “Most of the time, we have the original pieces. We look at them to determine whether they should be replaced or restored. In the case of the Ahlstroms’ house, lots of the pieces were just plain missing.”
Dinsmore winced when remembering how well-meaning volunteers discarded a pile of damaged but valuable pieces of wood, the remnants of the home’s ornate front porch.