BACKGROUND HISTORY OF THE
DEUTSCHE STRASSE BED AND BREAKFAST
404 SOUTH GERMAN STREET
NEW ULM, MINNESOTA
As recollected by James W. Beecher
February 22, 1990
I believe he built the brick house in about 1893-1894. To the rear, I recall, were several wooden buildings in the area where the three-stall car garage now stands. There was a square pump house with a windmill. A second larger building was a carriage house (later use as an automobile shed) and a good-sized room used for washing clothes. This had a pump, kitchen range, and space to wash, iron, etc. There were two out-houses, separated by a lattice fence. A solid board fence shut off the alley. This was about 61/2 feet high and was needed to protect against run-away horses and loose herded cattle.
In 1905, the property was purchased by Henry Lee Beecher and his wife Mary R. Beecher. I think an indoor toilet was installed at that time along with other amenities.
About 1914, the third floor was finished including the large room and the white tile bathroom with shower on the same level. The third floor was used daily throughout World War I as a sewing center for the Brown County Chapter of the American Red Cross. Volunteer women used the sewing machines each day and sometimes into the night to turn out the quotas of bandages, dressings, slings, etc. plus knitting of socks, hoods, sweaters, and scarves.
The home was widely used by clubs, school boards, societies, and civic and church groups for meetings and gatherings. The debate men's club met there too. Sometimes choirs rehearsed there. The room was always open for free to those needing a place to meet.
During 1918 the house was completely rebuilt, remodeled, and enlarged to its present size. Herman Heirs was the general contractor. Only the recognized best workmen were employed. The plumbing and heating was by Ernst Eyrich with the help of his sons, the electric by Everling Bros., plaster by Cordes; all lumber was hand selected and furnished by Alfred Vogel Lumber yard the brick work done by Heymann. The front Terrazzo steps were installed by an Italian Specialist from Minneapolis.
The home's new furnace with hot water heat was fired by coal. Other advanced features were a gas-fired clothes dryer, two excellent fireplaces, a walk-up entry to deliver to the refrigerator from the outside, six toilets in the house, and a walk-in linen closet. The basement was enlarged and completely rebuilt. The three car garage also had a washroom. The tank flush toilet of 1905 from the house was installed in the garage. A gas pump was in the garage and the upstairs was designed for future upstairs living quarters if needed. One car stall had an electric door and the garage was heated by a coal stove. The old hardwood floors from the house cover the garage upstairs floor. The total remodeling cost, with furnishings cost near $100,000.00. Around 1924 an oil burner was installed for the house.
Let me digress and tell about my parents. My father, Henry Lee Beecher, first came to New Ulm about 1895 to work for the Chicago Northwestern Railroad. He soon became the Depot Agent for passengers. In 1896, he was promoted and transferred with the company to run the depot at North Redwood, two miles from Redwood Falls. While there, he lived with his widowed mother. It was during those years that a Mr. Sear rented spare space in the depot to put together dollar watches. Mr. Sear later founded Sears Roebuck & Co., and he and Dad were good friends.
In 1898, he returned to New Ulm as Depot Agent for both Freight and Passengers. On June 8, 1898 he married my mother, Mary R. Treadwell of St. Peter. I was told that there were then as many as 19 trains a day through New Ulm. With no navigable rivers and not yet highways, everything depended upon the trains. Dad needed to be near the depot so when a train whistled he was there to visit with every train crew.
About the time my parents moved into the home at 404 S. German in 1905, my father, H.L. Beecher was offered the position as Traffic Manager and Secretary at the Eagle Roller Mill Co. His starting job paid $100 a month, the same as he received as depot agent. He changed jobs because he thought this offered a better opportunity for his future. Dad was a tireless worker. His regular hours were 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. six days a week. Unless he had a civic or social function, he usually worked evenings too.
The mill was the leading industry in town and was the largest interior flour mill in America. By 1921, Dad was both President and General Manager. He worked there until his death in 1933 at the age of 63. He was twice President of the Millers National Federation and spent much time in travel to Chicago, New York, and to other Eastern cities visiting large bakery accounts. During World War I and after, there was an urgent need for flour to feed the starving in Europe. The mill ran endlessly.
During 1918 and 1919, Dad was Chairman of the 3rd, 4th, and 5th Brown County Liberty Loan Drives. He had the know how to round up capable workers so that during those drives the quotas were exceeded by 23%.
There was a lot of activity at the Beecher home those evenings and my mother was a gracious hostess. During the war, the name German Street was changed to Liberty Street.
Following the war, many mill visitors and others were guests at the Beecher home. There were sometimes two full-time maids and a cook (who lived in). Others included a yardman and a weekly laundry lady, sometimes two. Mrs. Beecher managed in every way to make the home comfortable because in those years good hotel accommodations were not available. Mom took care of all household purchases and instructed the help.
St. Mary's Catholic Church purchased the property in 1939. Mrs. Beecher moved to Minneapolis to live with the family of her third son, James. The property was sold to the church for $10,000.00, $3,000 down payment and 3% interest on the balance. In 1940, the loan was fully paid.
I have written this report as a means of answering questions posed to me by some priests who have lived in the rectory as well as many members and friends of St. Mary's Parish. A copy will also go to the Brown County Historical Society.
(The St. Mary's Rectory was purchased by Gary and Ramona Sonnenberg on October 31, 1997, with the intent of opening a Bed and Breakfast to serve the New Ulm area They have hosted thousands of guests since their opening on Valentineâ€™s weekend, 1998. These travelers have been from New Ulm, Minnesota, many states of the union, as well as from Europe, Asia, and Africa).
Please note that this was a recollection. The cost of the renovation would more likely be $10,000 when comparing building costs of that time.
Also, we learned through a guest that she knew the original owner was Pahl and that he was an accountant.
We also learned from a historian that the original house was built in 1884.