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Anna G. Larson, Published August 24 2013

Fargo's Hawthorne neighborhood to showcase houses with six-home tour

FARGO - When Kurt Kopperud and Shelley Szudera purchased the 2,200-square-foot prairie-style home in the Hawthorne neighborhood here, Kurt was already familiar with the house. Very familiar.

Kurt, 32, lived in the home as a child, twice. His parents bought it in 1991, sold it to move to Arizona in 1995, and bought it again when they moved back to Fargo a year later.

After moving out of the house five years ago, Kurt’s parents turned it into a rental property that Kurt and Shelley snagged when they moved to Fargo from San Francisco a year ago. The couple recently transitioned from renters to homeowners, and they’re letting people take a peek inside their four-bedroom, two-bathroom abode Sept. 8.

The home is one of six featured in this year’s Historic Hawthorne Home Tour. The tour, planned by the Hawthorne Neighborhood Association, showcases some of Fargo’s oldest homes.

“We want people to be drawn in by the character, old woodwork, yards and mature trees,” says Polly Wendelbo, a member of the Hawthorne Neighborhood Association whose home was in the 2011 tour.

Wendelbo says she also hopes the tour will inspire people to preserve the neighborhood, where she estimates there are 1,000 homes.

“They’re all old historic homes. These are what people are living in – we see their decorating style and family faces. There’s a flavor for everyone,” Wendelbo says.

When Kurt and Shelley moved back to Fargo, they knew they wanted to live in the neighborhood and jumped at the chance to own his childhood home.

Keeping the home in the family is part of the home’s 97-year history. The home’s first owner was attorney Edward T. Conmy, and over the years, two other Conmy family members resided in the house.

The residence is dramatically larger than the places Kurt and Shelley lived in San Francisco. The couple once spent two and a half years in a 350-square-foot apartment.

“We’re used to living in a small space, but it’s amazing how quickly you accumulate things,” 31-year-old Shelley says.

So far, the couple has outfitted their living room with Shelley’s growing milk glass collection, a modern coffee table, a colorful printed rug and Civil War-era furniture that’s been reupholstered in a greenish-blue color.

The mix of antique furniture updated with modern fabric is an example of the homeowners’ eclectic décor style. While they wanted an old house with old furnishings, they also wanted the house to feel fresh.

“I like pops of color, but I also like staying true to the house’s history,” Shelley says.

Modern and historic elements mingle in the house beyond the living room. The kitchen has a streamlined, modern look while the dining room mixes contemporary furniture with old chests.

A door in the dining room leads to the first of two porches. The dual porches were a selling point for Kurt and Shelley, and they overlook the backyard where Shelley planted her first garden.

Bedrooms are on the second floor where they branch out from a central landing. One bedroom connects to the second porch, and a small room’s been turned into a home office. The other bedrooms don’t have a specific purpose yet, but Shelley’s thinking about turning one into a craft or sewing space.

The once-empty third floor will eventually house the master suite, and Kurt and Shelley have already added a bathroom to the slanted space.

Besides the master suite renovation, Kurt and Shelley are working on the original wood floors throughout the house and figuring out how to cover the pesky nail holes that dot some of the maple.

The couple calls their new home a “project house” they’re eager to fix up.

“Whenever you start something, you realize more things need to be done. We’re still discovering all sorts of surprises,” Shelley says.

“It’s the fun of having an old home,” Kurt adds.

Wendelbo, who lives next door to Kurt and Shelley, says it’s encouraging to see younger people embracing the historic neighborhood.

“Our gut worry is that things will change if we don’t continue to alert people to the history,” she says. “We want to keep the neighborhood quaint. It’s desirable to live here with all the variety.”

Craftsman-style homes, bungalows, prairie-style and more can be found on the tree-lined streets of the Hawthorne neighborhood, where each house seems unique.

“This tour is really about preserving the history,” Wendelbo says.

For Kurt and Shelley, living in Kurt’s childhood home is a way to preserve family memories and create new ones.

First up on their memory-making agenda: A housewarming party after the home tour.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Anna G. Larson at (701) 241-5525