When Ann Hackerott saw the built-in sideboard she used to call a china cupboard in the dining room of the former “Dana House” on Washington Street, she felt like she was revisiting her grandparents’ home.
“I walked in and felt like I was at home,” Ann said. “It felt right.”
Ann had grown up in a large, older home. When she looked at the house for sale that was built in 1901 for Christopher Columbus Crowell Jr., she found it to be an amazing place.
While they had not considered buying such a big home, Ann said she and her husband, Allen, realized they would not have to do anything to move in, basically, just maintain what some former owners — Jane Hansen Gilbert and Brent Gilbert — carefully refurbished.
The Hackerotts bought the home from Dana College in 2005. The college owned it as the official home of the college president, Myrvin Christopherson and his wife, Ann. Many visitors from all over have enjoyed spending time in the home.
The home has another Dana connection now. Dana loaned an office to the Blair TeamMates mentoring program Ann coordinates for students in the schools. Those offices were able to be moved to the back of the Hackerott’s home and have made it easy for Ann to work there.
Interested in history, Ann has discovered a lot more about their home and found interior photos from the Nebraska State Historical Society.
The home is one of two in Blair listed on the National Registry of Historic Places. The Gilberts completed the paperwork needed to accomplish that, with help on the research from Susan Juza of Blair.
The house is significant to the commercial history of Blair, having been built for the grandson of Prince Crowell, a shipbuilder from Massachusetts who invested with John Blair in financing railroads in this area.
Prince’s son, C.C. Crowell Sr., developed a successful lumber and grain company in the area, expanding to 15 locations along the Fremont, Elkhorn and Missouri Valley Railroad his father had helped establish.
C.C. Crowell Jr. was born in Blair. He worked with his father and was very involved in the community. While the company eventually moved to Omaha, the family kept close ties to Blair.
The house reflects the life of its first owner and was solidly built.
“It had good lines in the first place,” Ann said. “It was owned by a lumber magnate.”
“It has a lot of depth,” she said. “When I look out of my bedroom window through the stained glass, I think of how many people woke up looking out of that window.”
Ann said the house stayed in the Crowell family for a while, and a lot of people have lived in it. It was used for a time by the ENCOR program.
“I am really thankful to those who restored it,” Ann said.
Allen said he likes the way the house does not need to use air conditioning very often in the summer. The house is insulated and has good siding, he said.
“Maintenance is a little bit of an obligation,” Allen said.
The house is also historically significant because it combines a transitional style, Ann said, between the Queen Anne floor plans and influences of the day and the neoclassical revival elements in its details. It was built on the brink of transition between these styles.
“It’s a snapshot between two worlds,” Ann said.
It has a very complex roof, Ann said, but the interior is simple; not a Victorian design, not built “fancy.” It was looking toward the future with simple lines, for example, in the detail of the woodwork on the front open staircase, she said.
It took her a while to get over the feeling that she had to be very careful walking around in her historic home, and it took a long time to get used to the largeness of the house.
But their family with two now-grown children, Michael and Lisa, have made it their home and have shared it with relatives and friends from time to time.
The home now is a good place for the possessions of relatives that Allen began collecting when he was in school, and things they have found in shops. Some of Allen’s favorite things are cabinets from a great-uncle who had served in China.
An Edison phonograph that belonged to Allen’s grandmother sits on a small table in the front parlor. Ann said it was interesting to her that she put the table and phonograph there, then later saw an early photo of the house showing a similar table and different phonograph in the same place.
Allen said he also likes the large garage’s work area, which was added in the early 1980s. The garage has two bedrooms above it, attached to the house through the office area Ann uses for TeamMates. A kitchen was added on as well.
Ann said she was told there was a carriage house at one time and the home had a large circular drive that went around the house from the back so carriages could easily be driven through the grounds.
The house probably had more fireplaces at one time, she said. The downstairs parlor has one in the neoclassical style.
The Hackerotts said they may take up carpet in the upstairs and restore the wood floors there.
The wood floors on the main floor are quarter-sawn oak with walnut parquet inlay design borders, like the ones at the Crowell mansion, where C.C. Crowell Sr. lived before donating it to the Methodist church as a home for the elderly. Octagon designs form some of the borders of the wood floors.
Wooden pocket doors on the main floor are features they also enjoy about the house.
They have done some remodeling of some areas like bathrooms, to make them look more like the period of the house.
Allen said he would like to put in older light fixtures that he is finding to make it slowly evolve back, so the details are all of the time period. Then they will not have to update again, he said.
The home maintains many influences of the original owners, as well as the feeling of those grandparents’ homes where the Hackerotts grew up.