You may have noticed them here and there in the northwest Como area,
small houses situated much farther back from the street than their
Some of these probably were the “garage homes” of a century ago, the
idea being that their owners would build and live in them until they
could afford a main house on their property. For one reason or another,
some never got around to building the big house.
Following World War I, St. Paul had an estimated 100 garage homes with
one of the largest groups of them clustered around the Hoyt Avenue and
Chelsea Street intersection.
Technically, the homes were in violation of the city’s building code—a
garage wasn’t supposed to be a long-term domicile—but times were hard
and officials such as J.M. Clancy, commissioner of parks, playgrounds
and buildings, tried to be understanding.“We have had unusual conditions
during the war and after it,” he told the St. Paul Daily News in July
1921. “Regulations that might have been highly proper at other times
might work injury to some people if enforced too strictly.
“Most [of these people] are thrifty,” Clancy said. “Indeed, the very
fact that they have the courage to take a small place like they do, is
evidence of their desire to improve themselves. If some other people
lived within their means, they would be better off.”
C.A. Hausler, city architect, was in charge of building inspections at
the time. He told the newspaper that he was trying to discourage the
construction of garage homes, but acknowledged that there was only so
much he could do “once a family has taken up its abode in one of the
miniature homes.”To obtain a building permit, he noted, sewer and water
connections were required.
In that summer of 1921, a garage home had just been completed at Huron
Street and Hoyt at a cost of $90 and two others were planned. And
another home was under construction in a hayfield across Hoyt, even as
the harvest went on around it.Albert Larson, a carpenter, owned one of
the garage homes and his wife told the newspaper reporter that she liked
it just fine.
“We lived in a flat and paid $47.50 rent,” she said. “The landlord
wouldn’t fix the place at all. It didn’t even have a cupboard. We moved
out here and we like it much better.
“We have one room, 20 x 20 [feet], and another 10 x10 [feet]. So we have
lots of room. The material cost $400 and my husband did all the work,”
“So, you see, our little home didn’t cost a great deal. And then it is all ours. That is something.”
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