By Amanda Dyslin
Free Press Staff Writer
The Betsy-Tacy homes on Center Street in Mankato have been a passion project for Doug Laven and his wife, Candy, for a decade.
The Byron Street residents love to restore old homes, having done so for numerous houses in their neighborhood alone. They’ve also been a part of the restoration efforts of Maud Hart Lovelace’s childhood home and that of her childhood friend across the street for many years. The homes are known as Betsy’s and Tacy’s homes, respectively, named after Lovelace’s book characters.
“The (Betsy-Tacy) houses were in dire need of repair,” said Laven, director of the Mechatronics Technology Education Center at South Central College. “I go back about 10 years (with the project). ... It’s a labor of love.”
Laven and numerous other volunteers with the Betsy-Tacy Society have done an enormous amount of work on the homes in a decade. Laven, on the board of directors, said the Tacy house is at “museum status,” and the Betsy house’s first floor has been restored to its original condition.
The second story of Betsy’s house still needs renovation, he said. And the exterior has come to need a facelift again, too. That’s where South Central College students will come in.
Students in SCC’s Building Design and Energy Technology department will team up with the Betsy-Tacy Society Monday to complete the exterior restoration at Betsy’s House, 333 Center St.
Armed with safety information from Laven on lead handling and site preparation, the students will scrape and prepare the exterior of the home for repainting areas in the original yellow color.
This is the first time SCC has partnered with the society. Laven said it was his idea to bring a real-world project to the Building Design department that could benefit both students and the Betsy-Tacy Society.
“They do a lot of work from new materials,” Laven said, adding that working on an older structure adds a depth of experience to the students’ education. “It’s good for people going into the building trade.”
Preservation of the homes goes back to 1995, when the Betsy-Tacy Society bought the real-life model of the home of Lovelace’s best friend Francis Kenney (Tacy) at 332 Center St. and began restoration efforts. In 2001, the society purchased the Harts’ house across the street.
Because the historical value of the homes is the most important to preserve, the homes will always need to be repainted every so often rather than installing low-maintenance siding. Upkeep is a burden that comes with preservation, but it’s well worth the effort, Laven said.
Each year hundreds of visitors from all over the country come to Mankato to visit these homes and the Mankato places Lovelace immortalized in her books.