Tracing the Story Behind a Home

Amanda Zielike and David Decker’s inspiration for the website HouseNovel came from a personal place.

Decker’s mother lost her Highland Park farmhouse to foreclosure in 2011. One day, leafing through old photos with her, the couple realized the real estate market had a gaping hole: a single place to aggregate stories and information about historical homes.

“There’s so many old photos in people’s homes collecting dust and untold stories waiting to be shared,” Zielike says.

Every day, users around the country upload photos, newspaper clippings, testimonials, and even watercolor renderings to HouseNovel’s 18,000 property listings, which the website arranges into interactive timelines. Many are from the Twin Cities and greater Minnesota—the couple’s favorites include St. Paul’s historic Forepaugh’s Restaurant building and Dorothy Molter’s infamous root beer house in the Boundary Waters—but the site is expanding to other cities, like Charleston, New Orleans, and Philadelphia

 Zielike and Decker hope HouseNovel will inspire home buyers to preserve historical homes instead of replacing them with new construction.

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