Tracker Pixel for Entry

​Comstock home for the holidays

by Sabrina Hornung | .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) | News | December 20th, 2017

The Comstock HouseLocal history goes with Christmas, doesn’t it? And this Christmas there are tours of one of Moorhead’s most historical sites, Comstock House, richly decorated for the occasion.

We were concerned that many people don’t realize how much goes into these special tours. Matt Eidem, Director of Museum Operations of the Historical and Cultural Society of Clay County, was kind enough to take time off from his duties to fill us in.

High Plains Reader: Who were the Comstocks and why were they so significant to Cass County?

Matt Eidem: Solomon Comstock was an early settler of the area and Clay County’s first County Attorney. After serving in the Minnesota Senate for awhile he met James J. Hill, who hired Comstock to plot towns along the railroad, and that job spurred Comstock to start a real estate company to go along with his legal career.

One of his claims to fame is donating the land to the state where the Minnesota Normal school was built (MSUM). He also donated the land to the Episcopal church where they built Bishop Whipple School. After Bishop Whipple went out of business the Lutherans bought it and turned it into Concordia.

His wife Sarah was very involved in the community as well. She was one of the original members of the Moorhead Women’s Club in 1893, and was also the driving force behind bringing the first public library to town.

Their oldest daughter Ada was a big deal nationally in higher education. She was the first Dean of Women at U of M, where there is a dorm named after her, she was the first full-time president of Radcliffe College, and served on a White House Committee in the 20’s.

HPR: Who built the Comstock house? What are the most significant points of the building architecturally? What is distinctive about the Queen Anne style of architecture -- or rather, what makes it recognizable?

ME: The Comstock House was designed by Kees and Fisk, a Minneapolis firm, and built by local contractors. It’s a Queen Anne/Eastlake style. The main giveaway for what makes it a Queen Anne House are probably the porches. There’s one on the front, the side, and a 2nd floor porch on the front. The Bay window on the south side and the wooden shingles also are Queen Anne. The Eastlake influences are mostly on the inside: some spindle work in the entryway and a lot of their old furniture.

HPR: How and why were the house and artifacts so intact once the county acquired it?

ME: The house was donated to the Minnesota Historical Society in 1965 by George Comstock and Frances Frazier Comstock. When they gave it to them, they gave the furniture with it with the hopes of it all being used to “interpret history.” The Minnesota Historical Society still owns the house and the contents. They contract with us to operate the house and provide programming, since we’re here and they’re in St. Paul.

HPR: Christmas and Victorian traditions: How did the Victorians impact modern Christmas traditions?

ME: Since we’re a country of immigrants, a lot of our traditions are rooted in our European ancestors, especially the British and the Germans, whose traditions would hit the East Coast, then come west as people moved this way.

HPR: What traditions have remained relatively intact?

ME: Christmas Trees were a German thing and when Queen Victoria married Prince Albert, who was German, he brought, that tradition to the palace and it spread to the rest of British society. Trees took off in England after this engraving of Albert, Victoria, and their children appeared in a London publication in 1848.

By 1856 the first Christmas Tree is being put up in the White House. On the Comstock House tour, we’ll also talk about the origins of gingerbread houses, sugar cookies, mistletoe, and get into some Victorian Table etiquette, among other things.

HPR: Were there traditions that may seem surprising by today's standards?

ME: Not really. I think some people, especially younger ones, are surprised by how simple things were, but a lot of what they did is still done.

HPR: Can you tell us a bit about the Victorian Parlor games mentioned in the press release?

ME: On the tour, we’ll introduce a few games and actually play a few rounds of pass the slipper, and charades. For pass the slipper, pick a player who stands in the center of a circle formed by the other players. The player in the middle must close her eyes and as she does, so the slipper is passed from player to player behind the backs of the players in the circle. When the person in the middle opens her eyes, the passing of the slipper immediately stops and the player must guess who holds the slipper. If she is correct, the two change places; otherwise the player closes her eyes again and play continues.”

In Victorian times they would have used a slipper, of course, but we’ll be passing a candy cane. Charades was the same game we play today when we play charades.

HPR: What did the Victorians do for fun?

ME: It was a world before TV, and for part of it, even radio, so what they did for fun was read books, play board games, and interact with each other. Imagination was incredibly important to having a good time.

HPR: As a historian and one who works closely with the Comstock history, what do you find most interesting about the Comstock House?

ME: The most interesting thing is how much history of Moorhead and of that era you can tell just from interacting with the space and looking at the lives of the family. When looking at Solomon Comstock, you can talk about the railroads, labor, and the development of the town. With Sarah and his daughters, you can bring in the importance of literacy to the community, and look at women’s issues of the time. With their servants to it’s possible to bring in the lives of the working class in Moorhead.

HPR: What other kinds of programming can guests anticipate from the Comstock house?

ME: A lot of our programming is designed to create opportunities for our area students to show their skills or share their research, so through the school year we have speakers and monthly music recitals with students from the Concordia Music Department. The one I’m most excited about is Dr. Ashley Baggett, an NDSU professor, who will be talking about Progressive Era women’s movements in March.

For tickets to Professor Baggett’s event, please visit

The summers are reserved for weekly yoga classes and bi-weekly lawn game nights. The best way to stay on top of programming at the Comstock House is to check our website at


Comstock Christmas Light Tours

Saturday, December 23, 5:30, 7, and 8:30pm

Comstock House, 506 8th St S, Moorhead

3 tours, limit 12 people per tour. 701-291-4211 

Recently in:

FARGO - Hundreds of thousands of women and men, young and old, took to the streets across America on Saturday, raising awareness for issues from women's rights, Black Lives Matter, missing Indigenous women, DACA, immigration…

When I was a young boy of five I was lucky enough to have a black and white TV in our house. I had a lot of friends in those day because I let the whole neighborhood come over on Saturday morning to watch cartoons. I distinctly…

Wednesday, January 24, 6pmFargo Theatre, 314 Broadway NThe very first showing of “Homegrown: From Farm to Fargo,” a half-hour documentary shot, written, edited and produced by mass communication and journalism students at…

Last week I was asked to appear and speak on behalf of Matt Pausch, owner of the Oasis, before the Public Works and Safety Committee in Wahpeton. The Pausches are great people and I will never forget the time I spent at the Oasis.…

Corky had a knee replaced in late December and she has been diligently doing the physical therapy connected with the rehab. Although the operation was done in Fargo, I imagine the procedure would have cost about the same if it had…

Rhombus GuysWhile they may be known locally and throughout the region for their restaurants, which feature over thirty different pizzas, and their recent addition of a brewery in Grand Forks, Rhombus Guys also proudly pour from a…

Do you eat enough vegetables? Almost no one does. The current USDA nutrition guidelines for adults recommend 2.5 to 3 cups of vegetables to be eaten daily. Other nutrition sources indicate this number can be upwards of 6 cups of…

No one who has lived in Fargo for any length of time has to be told how bitterly cold it can get here during the winter. As much as we might complain about the cold temperatures, the biting winds, or the copious amounts of snow, we…

Now playing on Netflix Instant Watch, Voyeur is the curious story of strange bedfellows Gay Talese -- the once influential and celebrated journalist -- and Gerald Foos, a creepy peeper who spied on the guests at his hotel,…

High Plains Reader: How did the idea for Daily Trump Cartoon come to you -- what was your call to action?Peter Yuenger: It wasn't really a call to action, It was more of a New Year’s resolution to get back in the habit of drawing…

Smoke starts to seep from the sides of the stage and a rocker’s voice echoes over the crowd: “Are you ready to rock?!”You might think that you’re at a rock concert, if you weren’t seated in a black box theatre. For the…


​Talking to strangers

by Sabrina Hornung

“I don’t have a tour, like, on the back of a sweatshirt,” comedian Paula Poundstone says. “I go out every weekend. This weekend I went out Friday, Saturday and Monday. Mostly it’s Friday/Saturday or Thursday through…

“What are some of your favorite bottles of whiskey?” is a question I get asked quite frequently and is often harder to answer than one might think. One of the great rewards of my profession is getting to sample some of the…

Essential oils. They are all the buzz lately. It seems everyone has heard of them or is purchasing them. Some people know how to use them; others are just interested in the wonder of their complex scents.Essential oils are as…

Live and Learn

​The other shoe

by HPR Contributor

By Elizabeth Nawrotnawrot@mnstate.eduI look up from my hotel lobby breakfast astonished to see a framed print of Wassily Kandinsky's "Mit und Gegen,” a masterpiece of color and composition that just happens to be my favorite…

By Gary“Kissing a man without a beard is like eating an egg without salt.”— Dutch proverb, probably written by a man.“Kissing a man with a beard is like going on a picnic. You don’t mind going…