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The New England Greek Revival architecture of Folsom House

Its owner, W. H. C. Folsom, designed it to be both modest and a showcase of his well-established wealth.

The Folsom House at 272 Government Street, Taylors Falls.
The Folsom House at 272 Government Street, Taylors Falls.
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William Henry Carman (W. H. C.) Folsom was born in 1817 in New Brunswick, Canada. In the early 1840s he immigrated to Maine, where he met his future wife, Mary Wyman. They married and eventually moved further into the United States, settling in Stillwater, Minnesota. While in Stillwater, Folsom invested in the pivotal industries of the time — most notably the lumber mills of the St. Croix River — and the blossoming real estate opportunities in both Minnesota and Wisconsin. His investments paid off, and he amassed a notable fortune for himself and his wife. In 1849, he also began to get involved in Minnesota’s territorial politics.

The Folsoms purchased property in Taylors Falls in 1854, while they were still living in Stillwater. The property was on the gateway of what is now colloquially referred to as the Angel Hill District of Taylors Falls. At the time of Folsom’s purchase, the neighborhood was not yet established. Because of Folsom’s status, however, his family’s move attracted other similarly financed individuals to move to the same area; together, they created the identity of the neighborhood. The property did have a barn built on it at the time of purchase, so the Folsoms moved into it when construction on the house began. They cleared the land of its white pine, milling the lumber in order to build the structure.

The house was officially finished in 1855, and the Folsoms moved in. At this time, the family consisted of Mary Folsom, W. H. C. Folsom, and the couple’s sons, Wyman and Frank. The new house had two parlors, a study, a formal dining room, a wood shed, an outdoor kitchen, an indoor kitchen, five bedrooms, and a full basement and attic. Although it was not small by the standards of the day, the home was specifically designed to reflect Folsom’s Methodist beliefs, with extremely simple motifs and decor that were almost entirely the opposite of Victorian trends of the time. Originally, the external walls of the house were white clapboard and green trim; for a brief span of time, however, the outside was painted yellow with green trim.

In the mid-nineteenth century, the Angel Hill District of Taylors Falls became an area known for its Greek Revival houses, including Folsom’s. W. H. C.’s political affiliations as a representative in Minnesota’s Congress and a pivotal contributor to the state’s constitution attracted notable figures to the house during the 1860s, including Alexander Ramsey.

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The house stayed in the family until 1970, when the Folsoms donated it and all of the artifacts inside to the Minnesota Historical Society. It became a public museum in 1972, and in the same year was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. In 2022 it continues to operate as a historic house museum owned by the Taylors Falls Historical Society in tandem with the Minnesota Historical Society. It retains much of its original 1850s design, but there are renovations throughout the interior, particularly in the kitchen and the study.

For more information on this topic, check out the original entry on MNopedia.