Sunday, March 4, 2012

Colonial Hall

How do you go from being one of the grandest houses in the state of Minnesota to an antique shop in the span of 100 years or so?  Colonial Hall is like a metaphor for the town of Anoka itself (Kidding!  Sort of, but I do love Anoka.) 

Colonial Hall is one of the most beautiful houses in the town of Anoka and also a highlight on the Ghosts of Anoka tour. 

It is an impressive 17 room house that was built in 1904 for Dr. Alanson Aldrich and his wife, Dr. Flora Aldrich.  The Aldrich's were originally from Massachusetts but discovered Anoka, Minnesota while on their honeymoon.  Perhaps in 1879 Anoka was more of the honeymoon destination than it is today.  After celebrating their honeymoon the Aldrichs decided to stay and make Anoka their home, several years later the construction finished on their grand home. 

The house was built for several uses.  It was their private residence, but Dr. Flora Aldrich used it as her offices, Dr. Alanson Aldrich kept in office in Minneapolis.  Dr. Flora was quite the remarkable woman.  She was originally born in New York and her lineage is so steeped in Dutch settlers that she herself was eligible to become a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution. She attended medical school only after her and Alanson moved to Minnesota at the age of 21 and became the first woman doctor from Anoka.  She specialized in the treatment of the town's women and children and even wrote a book on the topic of parenting "My Child and I" and a book about women's health and hygiene "The Boudior Companion" (oh la la!  Looks like we have an early 20th century Dr. Laura Berman on our hands here!)  Dr. Flora Aldrich was also a passionate suffragist and was also very involved in local clubs and organizations and she was an all-around kick-ass lady!

The Doctors Aldrich were such prominent residence of Anoka  they become fodder for gossip.  Take a look at this gem from the Anoka Union of 1913:

Drs. Aldrich have purchased a handsome new automobile, and when Mrs. Dr. Aldrich drives the car Dr. Aldrich holds on for dear life----Anoka Union, May 28, 1913

Oh,  you lady drivers!  

Dr. Flora died in her home, Colonial Hall, on March 21, 1921 after a short illness as for Dr. Alanson's passed away later that same year. The Aldrich's had no children. 

Like many couple without children The Aldrich's had several hunting dogs that they loved and cared for.

Since they had no children to pass Colonial Hall onto and dogs can't own property, Colonial Hall went back to the city of Anoka.  They built the town's Mason Lodge attached to the home and Colonial Hall itself became the offices and museum for the Anoka County Historical Society.  

The Historical Society has since moved out of the Hall and now it is home to the Artique, an antique store.  

Since it is confirmed that Dr. Flora Aldrich did in fact die in the home, it being haunted isn't out of the realm of possibility, and there are several stories to back this claim up.    

Many of the employees of the Historical Society said to have smelled cigar smoke in the living quarters of Colonial Hall without explanation.  Some have even claimed to see some of the Alrich's beloved hunting dogs darting about on the property.  

There was also a museum display upstairs at Colonial Hall that included a ball of yarn and knitting needles.  The needles were often found in the morning on the floor next to the display, not tucked into the ball of yarn like they were suppose to be.  An employee would always tuck the needles back into the yarn, but each morning they were back on the floor.  This employee became so frustrated by this she decided to be the last to leave one night.  She was the first one back the next morning, and there the needles sat, on the floor, next to the display.  She declared out loud if this ever happened again she was going to quit.  The needles never came out of the ball of yarn again. 

Several employees also often claimed to see green and blue shades of mist moving around in the attic that was used for storage.  The employees knew that this was not a trick of the sunlight on dust since they didn't open the shades up there to prevent the artifacts getting damaged by the sunlight.   

The women who run The Artique,  the store that is now housed in Colonial Hall, (who are very no-nonsense women, btw) have claimed to find lights left on and doors shutting at their own accord.  And there was the case of the nearly 80 pound antique mirror that would end up in a new spot nearly every morning.  The women were very pleased when someone finally bought the mirror and they no longer had to try and haul it back to the where it belonged in the shop.  

If you ever have the opportunity to go to Colonial Hall, do so.  It is such a gorgeous building with grand, spiral staircases and beautifully finished dark wood.  Upstairs on the north side of the house you can see how it was set up for patients, with a long pharmacists counter and window. 

Sure it's now filled with other people's old junk (again, sort of kidding...) but nothing can take away from this spectacular old home.  Part of me hopes that it is truly haunted by the spirit of Dr. Flora Aldrich.  She was a great woman, something to aspire to, and someone Anoka should be proud.  A great Anoka woman who is a nice alternative to someone like, say....Michele Bachmann.   


1 comment:

  1. We need to get the Ghost Hunters or Ghost Adventure(ers) up there or something. That would be fun! I managed to tune in to a few minutes of your Ghost Adventures the other day (never watched it before) and Zak was walking through the middle of a re-enactment of something. Do they always do re-enactments? Imagine the re-enactment they'd do of the Doctors Aldrich?