Perhaps no other residence on the Christmas Tour of Homes has created as much interest and anticipation as house at 321 St. Croix St.
Built in 1875, the home has only had two owners. It was built by St. Patrick Catholic Church, Hudson's largest congregation, and served as the priests' rectory for more than 130 years before it was put up for sale. Jim and Kim Burns moved to Hudson and bought a house they liked but always wanted to find something historic they could restore.
Pardon the pun, but it appears it was a match made in heaven.
The Burns purchased the home and moved in Christmas 2008. There were challenges to the restoration from the beginning. The foundation appeared to be sinking. That required the house be lifted and supports be shored up, and in the attic, a whole host of critters including bats and raccoons, needed to be shown the door.
The insulation in the house consisted primarily of the corn cobs, horse hair and newspaper. The wiring and plumbing needed upgrading and an addition at the back of the house needed attention. And all that before anything could be done to restore the beautiful details of the house.
As daunting as the task sounds, the Burns never wavered. In fact, Kim recalled that she had "goosebumps" when they gutted the place. "I couldn't help but think this is what it must have looked like in 1875. And that's what we wanted to bring back -- the flavor of what it was like back then."
The Burns were always cognizant of the importance of the house to the St. Patrick's congregation and the community at large so when they were preparing the house for renovation they offered to have the community come and take whatever they wanted from the materials they were discarding.
Those items included some of the original hardwood floor, cabinets and even plumbing fixtures. "It was a gratifying thing to do and people really seemed interested in getting something from the old rectory," said Kim Burns.
But a lot of the original house remains. Tour-goers will see the walls as they were when the house was built and hardwood floors that were chosen to resemble the original Douglas fir plank flooring. Baseboards were milled to match and, while they moved it, an original fireplace sits in the center of a parlor that serves as the family's music and sitting room. The right replacement windows were researched and Kim's father designed stained glass accents to fit the era. And the staircase and bannister have retained their rightful place.
Outside, there was even more attention to detail. The porch, a work still in progress, is being restored to its original state. The bricks, that are part of the original structure, had to be removed but were painstakingly restored, some 11,000 of them, and reused.
But as important as the work to restore the house was, the Burns also wanted to make it a comfortable and serviceable home for their family which includes their three children, Henry, Quincy and Hannah. At the rear of the house is a state of the art kitchen, a casual dining area and another family space with another stunning fireplace.
The upstairs bedrooms reflect the children's favorite things from Dr. Seuss and monkeys to the Packers and all things fiber-optic. And the master suite features a stunning chandelier with copper sinks and a copper tub in the master bath. There is also a library area for family reading.
Holiday decorating is something special with the Burns. Close to 20 holiday trees will be on display throughout the house including a "book tree" Kim created and something special for the birds. Among the most impressive is the sterling silver heirloom ornament tree in the formal dining room. Jim's aunt collected the ornaments, some 750 of them, throughout her lifetime and they make an impressive sight in this very impressive room. A glistening dining room table is beautiful set for a Christmas dinner under a stunning chandelier with a Waterford Crystal nativity set nearby.
Along with stunning formal decorations, there is plenty of whimsy in the children's rooms and in the less formal kitchen and family area at the rear of the house.
Said Kim, "We are very excited about the tour and look forward to having people see the house the way it used to be."