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History hits the market

One of Cloquet’s grandest homes for sale: $625,000

One of Cloquet’s most historic homes is for sale, for a cool $625,000.

The house at 1 Park Place was built in 1919, after the previous home was destroyed in the 1918 Fires. A nearly exact replica was constructed after the fire for timber baron and mill owner R.M. Weyerhaeuser, who was the owner and proprietor of the local sawmill (located where USG now stands) as well as Northwest Paper Company.

Al and Reneé Birman purchased the house from Tom and Beth Collins in 2010, but said they want to move to a lake home after spending the last nine years in what Reneé refers to as “Cloquet’s house.”

“That’s part of the reason we’ve hosted so many fundraisers here,” she said, rattling off gatherings for Best Christmas Ever, political fundraisers and times they auctioned off catered dinners at events like the Blue Jean Ball and the hospital gala.

“It parties awesome,” said Al.

“Halloween was the bomb here,” added Reneé. “And Christmas was wonderful because you can fit the whole family.”

The Birmans bought the home not long after they purchased Cloquet Ford Chrysler and said it’s been a wonderful place to raise their son, “Little Al.”

However, Little Al is getting bigger and Big Al yearns to get back to a lake — preferably within 15-20 minutes of Cloquet — where he can pull into the drive and hop onto the pontoon for a cruise around the lake like he did with his older children. Both still plan to work at Cloquet Ford Chrysler; the only thing they’re changing is their residence.

They also don’t mind the idea of downsizing a little, in terms of both land and house.

Known for most of the past 100 years as the Weyerhaeuser House, the nine-bedroom, seven-bathroom home is 6,600 square feet large and sits on 4.4 acres of land.

It is certainly a grand old home, although it’s been updated throughout the years to include all the modern amenities.

Entering by the front door, visitors are presented with a choice of taking the grand staircase upstairs, turning right into the large formal dining room that seats up to 16, turning left into an equally large living room or heading straight back to the wet bar, which is fully stocked and waiting. There are six bedrooms on the second floor and three on the third, which was probably the servants quarters in the home’s early days.

Old and new sit comfortably side by side. Nowhere is that more evident than in the kitchen, with its granite island and breakfast nook, leading into the butler’s pantry — filled with floor to ceiling cabinets that are probably original to the house.

“There’s a different view out of every window,” said Reneé, noting that looking out on the hill and woods behind the house makes her feel like she’s in the mountains, while looking out front feels like she’s living in a park sometimes.

Reneé said it’s difficult to pick one place in the house that she likes the most.

“To me it’s eye candy everywhere you look,” she said. “It’s so beautiful. I appreciate it every day.”

After a little more thought she decides that the chandelier in the dining room is her favorite thing.

“It’s like dripping jewelry,” she said. “It’s so elegant.”

Fun fact from the lady of the house: The best way to clean the historic chandelier is using top shelf gin to wipe down one crystal at a time.

No. 1 Park Place is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, along with the neighboring grand homes at 512, 520, and 528 Park Place.

The 1984 application to the Historic Register noted that the Park Place Historic District consists of four large residences, built in 1919, located on the west end of Cloquet on a small cul de sac. The houses comprise a group of the largest homes in Cloquet, and all four were built by the Weyerhaeuser companies utilizing local contractors.

Over the past year, two of the four homes have changed hands: Bret and Catherine Loeb sold 528 Park Place to Pete and Tara Radosevich this spring, and Lee and Julie Harris sold 520 Park Place to Ron and Shanon Thomsen last summer. The Birmans will be the third to sell.

The Harris family lived at No. 520 for 10 years before moving out to the countryside.

“We loved the history behind the houses and we loved our time there. Such a privilege to live in a home from one of the foundational businesses in Cloquet,” Lee said, adding that the neighbors were wonderful people too. I think all the owners of those homes know that they are blessed. Each house has had beautiful restoration projects to maintain them in great shape, which is rare for most neighborhoods.”

The future buyers of the Birmans’ home will be only the third family to own the house — corporations not included.

After the Weyerhaeuser family moved, their home remained in the ownership of the various paper mills, serving as a staff house by Northwest Paper and then Potlatch, providing a place to stay for company employees and customers, as there were few hotel rooms in town.

It was sold for the first time to Tom and Beth Collins in 1992, after an unsuccessful house hunting trip to Cloquet in 1992. Tom Collins was the manager of Sappi’s Cloquet mill.

No. 1 Park Place is not sold yet, but there’s been plenty of interest.

Al Birman said they got a call from an interested buyer in California the first day they listed the home, who bought a plane ticket to come see it firsthand. The post on the Cloquet Ford Chrysler Center Facebook had 40,000 hits in 10 days, undoubtedly more by now.

Leaving will be bittersweet, at least for Reneé, who wasn’t crazy about moving there in the first place — it was Al who pushed it — but who fell in love with her grand old house. He teases that she loves the 1920s and 1930s, and even older times.

“It’s got so much history, I love to share it,” she said. “I will miss that. But it will also be nice to just hop onto a boat and, who knows, maybe I’ll be able to get a horse again.”