Photos by Greg Seitz/St. Croix 360
High in the hills above Kelle Creek in Afton, a home built in 1971 and designed by Mike McGuire has been brought back to life by its current owners. Set among giant white pines on a steep slope, with redwood siding and interior, the house seems like it could be in coastal California, but it was designed specifically for the St. Croix Valley.
Current owners John and Beth Sevenich bought the house from the original owners in 2014 and spent the following six years repairing and restoring it, and enjoying its natural setting, serene spaces, and comfortable entertaining amenities. Now, they are selling it through real estate agent Linda Nides, who invited me for a tour one day in April.
When the Seveniches bought the property in 2014, it had been unoccupied for seven years — they had their work cut out for them. John, a retired corporate executive by profession and a carpenter by avocation, crafted original wood features and furnishings. Together, the couple managed a major restoration that sought to preserve McGuire’s designs, which the architect pulled from his archives and provided for their use, while also upgrading some features and updating others.
McGuire designed the house in the late 1960s, just as he was starting to make a name for himself as an architect influenced by the Prairie School style. The Minnesota native attended the Universities of Chicago and Minnesota to study architecture, served in the armed forces, and lived for a while in New York City, before establishing himself in eastern Minnesota and western Wisconsin.
Today, at 95 years old, McGuire has a legacy of unique homes and commercial buildings throughout the region. He designed and owned for many years the Brick Alley building and Dock Café in Stillwater, an underground abode that has been described as a “hobbit home” in River Falls, the St. Croix Watershed Research Station’s main building, townhomes in Burnsville, and many structures in between.
Photos courtesy Land & Living Realty
The house on Coulee Ridge Road in Afton was built for a married couple that included a retired ballerina, and it still features the mirrored practice space used by the dancer.
Wood and stone in long, horizontal lines define its look, and how it complements the landscape, seeming to grow from the valley walls. Wide overhanging eaves provide shade and another element that secures it to its setting.
McGuire’s original designs for the house had called for cedar wood to be used throughout. The owners, though, wanted redwood, and reportedly went to 11 lumber yards around the Twin Cities and bought every board they could find. Local limestone was used throughout, which somehow pairs perfectly with the redwood imported from the West Coast.
Between 2015 and 2020, the Seveniches replaced all the carpeted floors with white oak and maple. They had the house’s unique decks rebuilt and replaced all the windows. They totally remodeled the kitchen, expanding it significantly — while keeping the original teak cupboard doors. They replaced the cedar shingle roof with standing seam metal and put in a new septic system.
In a nod to the home’s unique materials and construction, one room features a wall panel made of salvaged pieces of redwood. In a corner stands a four-foot redwood tree in a pot, brought from California to this well-lit space.
Fifty or more years after many of Michael McGuire’s homes were built, some of them are threatened by the effects of time and weather and desires for modern amenities. The Seveniches bought a house that some might have just torn down and replaced, but they have restored and preserved it so it might stand another five decades or longer. It’s now someone else’s turn to enjoy and care for the home.
The 4,300-square foot, four bedroom, 3.5 bathroom home was listed this week for $1.3 million. Contact Linda Nides at 651-332-1403 or email@example.com.
This is a great story. I know Mike because we played tennis together years ago. He also was kind enough to meet with my son when he was in high school to talk about a career in architecture. I never knew that he designed the watershed research station building but now that I do, I can see that of course he was its architect. Thanks for sharing another piece of history and great St. Croix Valley story!