old houses under $50k

Old Houses Under $50K Historic House Tuesday – Addison G. Foster Mansion

Kentucky Fried Chicken offers more than just chicken, and likewise Old Houses Under $50K does more than just feature houses for sale under $50,000. On Thursdays our menu includes homes on the market under $75K and on Sundays under $100K. Occasionally the menu has specials of the day, such as Sears kit homes, historic, lost, abandoned or haunted houses that are not for sale at all but are simply of interest. The Addison G. Foster residence  falls under the “historically interesting” category.

Family Background


Addison G. Foster (1837-1917) moved to Minnesota from Massachusetts in 1859 at the age of 22 and entered into the lumber business three years later.  He married Martha Ann Wetherby of Pennsylvania, and they had four children, Harrison Gardner, Francis Walker, Martha Rowena, and Charles Addison.

Foster had his hand in many business ventures, including, real estate, coal, freight, and flour, but logging was his primary money maker. In 1883, he commissioned a house of pressed red brick from architect Clarence H. Johnston, an interesting choice from a lumber baron.

To be nearer his business interests in Washington state, Foster relocated to Tacoma in the late 1880s to take the position of vice president of the St. Paul and Tacoma Lumber Company. There, he represented the state in the U.S. Senate from 1899 to 1905.

Foster House


Foster spent $35,000 to have the home built. It measured 50′ wide by 72′ deep, highlighting three distinct sections: porches marked by stickwork; solid surfaces of the lower floors; and stylistic rooflines.



The home must have been a beast to heat in the Minnesota winters, because first floor ceilings were 11′ high, second floor 10.5′ and the attic (where the billiard room was located) 9′ high. Toilets were not common on the first floor in the early 1880s, but the architect went against the grain and placed one perhaps too close to the dining room. Some criticized him for such placement as the sound of flushed human waster did not enhance the pleasant atmosphere of a formal dinner.



Addison Foster house today.


The Foster house still stands at 490 Summit Avenue in St. Paul, Minnesota. It is certain that Foster chose this location for its prestige. a street of large and ostentatious homes. Architect Clarence H. Johnston designed four houses on the street. Today Summit Avenue ranks as one of the best urban collections of 19th-century taste and aspirations, but Frank Lloyd Wright called it “the worst collection of architecture in the entire world.”


Clarence H. Johnston, Architect


Johnston (1859-1936) settle in St. Paul after graduating from the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The prolific architect designed many of the buildings of the University of Minnesota, as well as mansions, churches, schools, prisons, sports complexes and hospitals in the St. Paul area.

More Summit Avenue Homes (not for sale)










UPDATE: Actually, I just discovered that the Foster House was for sale…. For $1,350,000 last year! Here are interior shots from Realtor.

Elegant and timeless Summit Avenue mansion! Beautiful curb curb appeal, huge 0.59 acre lot. This 8200 sq. ft., 6 Bedroom, 5 Bath home was built in 1883 and designed by architect Clarence Johnston. The original charm is still evident throughout the natural light filled interior. Wonderful floor plan throughout with several entertaining spaces. Features include gleaming hardwood floors, spacious bedrooms with fireplaces, 3 porches, gorgeous dining room, library, mother in law apt., ballroom with enclosed porch overlooking Summit Avenue, 7 fireplaces and large fenced in yard. Finish upper level of the carriage house for additional space. Located just minutes from restaurants and shopping and all of St. Paul’s unique offerings. 490 Summit Avenue is a stunning property and a historical piece of Minnesota history!


  • [email protected]

    If you reread the post, you will find that the post is a historical portrait of the house only. It is currently for sale, and I just added the interior photos, but the price is way beyond our price constraints. It was under $50K when it was built in 1883, but definitely not now.


    I disagree with Frank Lloyd Wright, who, iMO, had some hits and misses in his design career. These houses are gorgeous, and the featured house is so spacious and elegant.

  • Genie Hoster

    Spectacular – floors in dining room are wonderful. At that price, I wonder if it includes the furniture, which fits just perfectly every place it is (and it would take a lifetime to find furniture to fill this large property!)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

error: Content is protected !!