You may be familiar with the house that sits just inside the main entrance of Elm Creek Park Reserve, but did you know this early settlement home was host to the first Catholic mass of the present St. Vincent DePaul church community?
The Pierre Bottineau House, constructed in the decade before the U.S. Civil War, was “first” in many ways. The first wood-framed house in the area, the new abode on the Osseo prairie was constructed of pine timbers from woodland in the surrounding area and held together with wooden pegs in mortise and tenon joints. The house employs a mix of timbers and a more experimental (and now rare to find) framing technique using 2x4’s from trees which would have been floated down the Mississippi from the Rum River area to be milled at St. Anthony Falls.
At that legendary “first mass,” Rev. George Keller, a German priest from St. Paul, drew 100 families, according to church history. Those in attendance would have experienced the house much like we find it today in its restored version, however, in its original location, on the grounds of the present Osseo Junior High School.
Historical restoration by McDonald and Mack Architects paid close attention to clues about the original configuration of windows, walls, floors and the staircase, as well as the probable color of siding and trim. After studying survey maps to determine the setting of the original home, the restored building was placed in similar surroundings at the edge of a prairie, near a wooded area (see mmarchltd.com/bottineau-house-case-study.html).
“I think it’s really cool that in Maple Grove, a suburb, we’ve got this 1854 building that predates buildings in downtown Minneapolis,” says Bill Walker, cultural resources manager at the Three Rivers Park District.
Over the years, the house has also been used as a farm out-building, a granary and for equipment storage. Today it has new life as an interpretive space connecting park visitors with the life of early frontiersman and explorer of the Northwest Territory, Pierre Bottineau.
The Bottineau House
12400 James Dean Parkway, is open Saturdays, 1–4 p.m., Memorial through Labor Day, and by appointment. Call 763.694.7700 for information.