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Tu-Uyen Tran, Grand Forks Herald , Published May 06 2012

Grand Forks man's polka dot house an Internet sensation

GRAND FORKS – The house at 523 University Ave. has been around for 112 years, and all it took was a fresh coat of paint to turn it into an instant landmark and an overnight Internet sensation.

A fresh coat of polka dots, that is.

The house’s owner, Jimmy Deitz, is as surprised as anyone at the house’s fame, which has attracted sightseers from all over town and the attention of websites such as the Huffington Post and Yahoo. He kept using the word “crazy” to describe it all.

Actually, he was talking about the sightseers more than anything. Deitz seemed only vaguely aware of his Internet fame – he said his sister told him about it – while he excitedly listed the different people who have been by the house. He rents it out but lives just down the street.

There was the lady from Bismarck who was visiting some friends in town; she came by twice. There were some artsy-types from Fargo, a woman and her grandchild asked permission to take pictures, a mom and her teenage girls, all of them telling him they love it, he said.

“If I had a dollar for every car that’s been here the last four days …” he said Friday.

How it happened was Deitz was at the Knights of Columbus Club across the street from the house, telling some people about his polka dot plan. A Grand Forks Herald employee heard the talk and asked a reporter to write a brief story, and a Herald photographer snapped Deitz and the half-painted polka dot house. The story went online Monday night and appeared on Page B1 of Tuesday’s Herald.

To date, the online story has had more than 7,700 hits. The Associated Press saw that story and followed up with its own, interviewing city planner Ryan Brooks, who expressed his personal distaste for the house.

From there, the AP story, and sometimes the Herald story, was picked up by other news outlets, many of which seemed to think Deitz was in trouble with the city, which he denied.

Deitz said the planner was just about the only person who didn’t like his house.

“One out of 100, I think,” he said. “They’re all positive.”

But if you saw the house online or saw it a few days ago, Deitz is urging you to swing by again. He said he’s put a fresh coat of paint on the trim – it’s lime green now – and painted a yellow smiley face on the chimney.

As a former professional painter, he’s done plenty of painting in the past, but of the polka dot house, he said, “It’s the best project I ever did.”


Tu-Uyen Tran writes for the Grand Forks Herald