The Durkee House

Across the street from one another in Prospect Terrace are two prominent French Second Empire homes.

The first, the Durkee House is located at 58 Prospect Boulevard. Built round 1875, this is one of the first built on the bluff – a French Second empire with a mansard roof. The mansard, or hip roof, was popularized in France by Francois Mansart and is recognizable by the two slopes, the second more acute than the first. This house has been remodeled over and over, so it has lost some of its original character; to some it resembles a paddlewheeler about to steam over the bluff.

Reuel Durkee came to St. Paul from New Hampshire in 1870 and commenced a long career in the wholesale grocery business, mostly as R.A. Durkee & Co., downtown. According to his grandson, Reuel Harmon, Durkee guessed that Prospect Terrace would equal or surpass Summit Avenue as St. Paul’s prestige boulevard; he got it wrong, but you can see his reasons. Harmon described his grandfather is crusty, with some eccentric ideas; he believed, for example that the moon was getting progressively closer to earth. And when young Reuel asked him what happens to the soul upon death, the old man snuffed out a candle flame.

Reuel the elder died at 58 Prospect Boulevard in 1923. Reuel the younger was born at that address and went to a very successful business career as president of Webb Publishing Company, publisher of The Farmer magazine, a publication founded in 1882 and still going strong today.