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Ryder Mingo (left) and Cameron Mellgren (right) battle for the ground ball during the 11-5 victory over Century on May 6. (Michael Pappas/

Northfield’s Jordyn Naumann leads off third base during the conference battle versus Winona on May 5. (Michael Pappas photos/


A. W. Norton home receives historic local preservation designation

Two years ago, two women who were sisters from two different western states stood on Alice Thomas’ front porch and told her they were in Northfield on a fact-finding mission to “find their roots.”

Alice Thomas sits on the side porch nicknamed the “Dean’s Porch” to review historical files about her corner home which dates back to 1878. (Pamela Thompson/

Turns out they were the great granddaughters of Alfred W. Norton, one of the original owners of Thomas’s historic house.

“I about passed out when they said who they were,” said Thomas. “We ended up going to dinner with them and having so much fun. We still correspond with them.”

Thomas said the women gave her three old photos, one of which showed the study of the home and another where the grand piano was located.

Thomas said she and husband Bruce, a retired physicist, have been restoring the exterior of the home at 418 College St. since 2007 when they retired from their academic careers. She said they’ve been restoring the interior rooms “since day one.”

“We have really worked hard on the inside,” she said.

After single family ownership, the two-story Italianate home with three fireplaces, two staircases and a front room once called a preacher’s parlor, was purchased by Carleton College to house students before being converted into a duplex.

One of the biggest restoration jobs required an outside contractor to remove the asbestos siding. Thomas said that project unearthed a plank with the original paint that she asked Young’s Paint Center in Dundas to match.

The original paint color, a soft gray, was matched perfectly by Young’s Paint Center in Dundas. Current owners, Bruce and Alice Thomas, used earth tones for detail contrast. (Pamela Thompson/

“Depending on the light, the outside walls sometimes look gray, sometimes green and sometimes blue,” she said.

Impressive documentation

Michael Koop, certified local government coordinator with the State Historic Preservation Office, explained that, before his office can sign off on promoting a project, the petitioner has to submit a certain level of quality documentation.

Other characteristics and features of Italianate architecture include molded door trim with transom, detailed corbels and wide overhanging eaves. (Pamela Thompson/

“All the documents Alice submitted were terrific,” said Koop. “She did all the work. Her packet was impressive. I was really happy to hear that her local designation was approved.”

Koop said seeing an historic home, like the A.W. Norton property, be so carefully restored signals two key messages: the project was a labor of love, and it should be acknowledged by the community.

Some of the Italianate features include tall, thin porches, square porch posts and decorate porch woodwork. (Pamela Thompson/

A decorative cornice and molded window caps accent the second floor exterior. (Pamela Thompson/

Many community members spoke in favor of the remarkably detailed renovation done by Bruce and Alice Thomas at last week’s Northfield City Council meeting. Thomas narrated a photo presentation that highlighted in before and after photos the home’s unique architectural features and characteristics and a timeline of the home’s famous occupants from 1897 until the present day.

An old clipping from the Northfield News printed an article about a former owner of the historic house at 418 College Street. (Photo courtesy of Alice Thomas)

Norton, who built the home in 1879, was a prominent businessman and community servant. He was president of Northfield Citizens Bank, mayor of Northfield for three non-consecutive terms, chairman of the Northfield Board of Education, president of the Northfield Commercial Club; he co-established the Northfield Independent newspaper and served as treasurer of Carleton College.

Despite these successes, Norton’s business career ended in bankruptcy, and he sold his property to Fred. B. Hill to serve as housing for the incoming Carleton president.

The home’s second occupant was 36-year Carleton College President Donald J. Cowling. A member of 60 educational, religious, international and social organizations, Cowling lived in the home from 1909-1913.

The next occupant was Carleton College music professor Frederick L. “Daddy” Lawrence. He rented the house in 1913 before purchasing it in 1917. The home was host to many musical and culinary events until his death in 1945.

From 1946 to 1951, the home was used by Carleton College as a women’s dormitory, and years later as a men’s dorm. The home’s current occupants purchased the property in 1967.

Thomas explained that the criteria for local historical designation status specified an association with lives of significant persons, as well as the embodiment of distinctive characteristics of an architectural type and period.

Community support

Revee Needham, assistant city planner, told the City Council last week that Alice Thomas had complied with all the required paperwork involved with receiving such a noteworthy local designation. Barbara Evans, chair of the Northfield Heritage Preservation Commission, told the City Council last week the Thomas home deserves local recognition.

Thomas said she hopes other community members will be interested in protecting other historic homes by seeking the local historic preservation designation.

“What people don’t know is that the designation is not about a home’s age,” she said. To help guide others through the process, Thomas said she compiled a rough draft of resources.

“We have a lot of education to do,” she said. “I don’t intend to put up a plaque, but I would like to see a walking map of historic homes developed.”

Northfield Mayor Rhonda Pownell said after Thomas’s presentation to the council, “the home is a treasure for many more generations to come.”

“This is indeed a treasure,” said Jessica Peterson White, Fourth Ward councilor. “And a great asset to the neighborhood and community.”

“Thank you for your hard work,” said Brad Ness, At Large councilor. “This is worthy of historic designation.”

One councilor had a question.

“Will there be any significant consequences to the neighborhood?” asked Clarice Grenier Grabau, At Large Councilor.

“I received a lot of calls and emails from neighbors who asked why should they object when the value of real estate goes up with an historic designation,” said Thomas.

Speaking of value, she said two men with metal detectors recently knocked on her door and asked if they could scope out the yard.

“They found an 1833 penny as large as a quarter.”

Famous historical figures will not be included on this year’s cemetery tour sponsored by the Northfield Historical Society. (Pamela Thompson/

Lake Superior is theme of upcoming Carleton College band concert
  • Updated

If the intrigue, mystery and beauty of the Great Lakes resonate deep within you, then an upcoming concert featuring the five-part “Lake Superior Suites” and other lake-inspired and uplifting musical numbers should connect your soul to those wonders of nature.

This promotional poster explains explaining the theme of the May 13 concert was derived from the powerful natural intrigue, mystery and beauty of Lake Superior. (Photo courtesy of Claire Larson)

Claire Larson, guest director for the Carleton College Band, wanted the musicians to personally understand the powerful connection between Minnesota nature and music. So, she mapped out a one-day road trip that would enable them to enjoy some typically Minnesota experiences.

“Many of the students at Carleton come from outside Minnesota,” said Larson. “They may not understand what makes Lake Superior so unique, so I wanted them to see firsthand how Lake Superior has been a massive source of inspiration over the years.”

Since the students on the road trip come from Arizona, Kentucky, Hawaii and Alaska, many had not ventured too far outside of Northfield, much less visited a Minnesota state park, thanks in part to COVID curtailing any if not all opportunities to sightsee in the Gopher State.

“We pushed past Duluth and headed along the North Shore,” she said. “It was a pretty epic 16-hour trip.”

Larson, director of bands for Kenyon-Wanamingo middle school and high school, snapped photos at Split Rock Lighthouse, climbed on rocks, skipped stones over the water, and soaked up the spectacular vistas. ”I wanted them to do Minnesota stuff,” said Larson. “I wanted to show them the majesty of the lake, so they can better connect with the theme and inspiration behind the concert.” Larson will direct the the Carleton College Band in what she terms a “very unique concert” on Friday, May 13, at 7 p.m. The concert’s theme of Lake Superior, will feature music that was inspired by the Big Lake otherwise known as Kitchi Gami. The performance will be held in Kracum Performance Hall at Weitz Center for the Creative Arts. “I am directing the Carleton College Band this Winter and Spring as Dr. Ron Rodman is on sabbatical,” she said. “I am filling in on the interim position. This is my second time I have directed the band for him.” She explained that Ron Rodman was not retiring from his teaching at Carleton, but has only retired from the Symphony Band Conductor position. “He will continue to teach one class each term. They are doing a search for his replacement and again to transparent- I am not going to be a candidate as my full time position is band director at Kenyon-Wanamoingo HS. I have only stepped in as interim director as he has phased out of this director role.”

On a recent road trip to the North Shore, Carleton College music students experienced the inspirational force of Lake Superior in preparation of their final concert of the semester. They stopped at Split Rock Lighthouse for a group photo. (Photo courtesy of Claire Larson)

She said the pieces in the program are musically stunning and all have a connection to Minnesota; from “Lake Superior Suite” by young composer Cait Nishimura to Aaron Perrine’s “Temperance” and Shirley Mier’s “Maiden Voyage.” Both Perrine and Mier are native Minnesotans.


Stunning photographs like this one by Mike Shaw showing the Aurelia Borealis will be set to music at the May 13 Lake Superior concert. (Photo courtesy of Mike Shaw)

“Lake Superior Suite” is a five-movement piece for wind band, inspired by the landscapes of five provincial and national parks on the north shore of Lake Superior. Each movement is named for a different park and depicts such imagery as endlessly flowing waves, soaring birds, peaceful rays of light, and the first glimpse of the vastness of Lake Superior.

On Nishimura’s website, she describes the second movement, called “Pukaskwa National Park:” Located on the northeast shore of the lake, and featuring towering cliffs and rocky shores with century-old driftwood, the music represents the sense of wonder, adventure, and determination involved in hiking precarious cliffs to breathtaking views through meter changes and driving ostinatos.

Larson said the concert’s final number will be Aurora Borealis by Rossano Galante. “As we all know, Lake Superior is a great place to catch the Northern Lights,” she said. “My friend, professional Night Sky photographer Mike Shaw, has granted the Carleton band permission to use his photos set to the music which we will play.” Check out Shaw’s photography:

Leaving a Legacy

Asked to recount his favorite moments as Carleton’s Symphony Band director, Rodman responded: ”We-discovered the legacy of James Gillette and the Carleton Symphony Band of the 1920s and 1930s and re-named the Carleton Symphonic Band as the “Carleton Symphony Band” to honor that legacy. We produced a CD of Gillette’s symphonies in 1994, the first symphonies composed for band by an American composer. We collaborated with colleagues and students and performed concerts with the Carleton Choir, the Carleton Jazz Ensemble, and the African Drum Ensemble. We performed a joint concert with the Sheldon Theater British Brass Band on campus and in Red Wing. We performed run-out concerts in the Twin Cities, Red Wing, and schools in Northfield and Farmington. Rodman said several music faculty performed solos with the band including Lynn Deichert, trumpet, Nina Olsen (clarinet), Andrea Kodner-Wenzel (flute), Jay Johnson (percussion), Dave Saunders (sax). Also, senior solos became a tradition during spring term concerts. He listed theme concerts as a highlight, noting the Symphony Band collaborated with faculty outside of the music department to produce concerts with music that depicted academic disciplines outside of music. Professors Mike Kowalewski and James McDonald (English) collaborated on a concert of music based on literary works. Professor Cindy Blaha (Physics and Astronomy) collaborated on a concert based on astronomy. Susan Jaret-McKinstry (English) read poetry in a concert celebrating the fifty-year anniversary of the end of WWII.” Rodman said the good natured, hard working students made his tenure memorable. “Carleton band students are the best,” said Rodman. “My favorite time was rehearsal time with these great people. I’ll never forget them. I remember standing on the podium during concerts and thinking: ‘I’ve got the greatest job in the world!’” Larson predicted the concert would be special for many reasons. “This promises to be a memorable evening also as we honor Dr. Rodman upon his retirement from directing and recognize our seniors as well,” said Larson.