The New England Greek Revival architecture of Folsom House


William Henry Carman (WHC) Folsom was born in 1817 in New Brunswick, Canada. In the early 1840s he emigrated to Maine, where he met his future wife, Mary Wyman. They married and eventually moved further to the United States, settling in Stillwater, Minnesota. While in Stillwater, Folsom invested in the essential industries of the time—notably the sawmills on the St. Croix River—and the burgeoning real estate opportunities in Minnesota and Wisconsin. His investments paid off and he amassed a notable fortune for himself and his wife. In 1849 he also began to become involved in Minnesota territorial politics.

The Folsoms purchased property in Taylors Falls in 1854 while still living in Stillwater. The property was at the entrance to what is now colloquially known as the Angel Hill District in Taylors Falls. At the time of Folsom’s purchase, the neighborhood was not yet established. Due to Folsom’s status, however, his family’s move attracted other similarly funded people to move to the same area; together they created the neighborhood’s identity. The property had a barn built on it at the time of purchase, so the Folsoms moved in when construction of the house began. They stripped the land of its white pine, sawing the wood in order to build the structure.

The house was officially completed in 1855 and the Folsoms moved in. The family at this time consisted of Mary Folsom, WHC Folsom and the couple’s sons, Wyman and Frank. The new home had two living rooms, an office, a formal dining room, a woodshed, an outdoor kitchen, an indoor kitchen, five bedrooms, a full basement, and an attic. Although not small by the standards of the time, the house was specifically designed to reflect Folsom’s Methodist beliefs, with extremely simple designs and decor that were almost entirely the opposite of the Victorian tendencies of the time. Originally, the exterior walls of the house were white clapboard and green trim; for a brief time, however, the exterior was painted yellow with green trim.

In the mid-19th century, the Angel Hill district of Taylors Falls became an area known for its Greek Revival homes, including Folsom’s. WHC’s political affiliations as a representative in Congress from Minnesota and a key contributor to the state constitution drew notable figures into the house during the 1860s, including Alexander Ramsey.

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The house remained in the family until 1970, when the Folsoms donated it, along with all 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. As of 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 office.

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


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