A mansion on Summit Street in St. Paul with a mysterious mural lists for $1.85 million

Lois and Bill Stevens can answer any questions about their home on Summit Avenue in St. Paul that was once owned by an order of nuns.

Iron bunk beds? The nuns’ sleeping quarters that came with the house when the Stevens family bought it. Library room? It was previously used as a chapel. Bookshelves? Original to the house.

But there was always one question that baffled them: Who painted the mural depicting dazzling landscapes displayed in their living room?

The Stevens family, who have lived in the house for 37 years, searched for a signature on the mural and asked the previous owners but found no answers. However, this piece remains one of the most amazing parts of the house.

“We had the opportunity to meet some of the relatives of the woman who built this house,” Lewis said. “We’ve been told that the panel along the back is from Naples, Italy — where they spent their honeymoon. The more tropical-looking panels in the front are from the Bahamas, where they loved to vacation.”

Preserved in history

The house has had many owners throughout its history. It was built in 1919 by the McConville family, who were the first Catholic family to live on Summit Avenue, Bell said. At one time, the house was owned by Peter S. Popovich, former chief justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court and chief judge of the state Court of Appeals. Bell said he and his wife bought the house at the behest of the nuns who lived there from approximately 1960 to 1986.

The Stevens family became responsible for the mural, hiring experts to clean and restore it.

“People have been enjoying it for over 100 years,” Lewis said.

Now, in order to downsize, the couple has listed the 7,138-square-foot home with six bedrooms and six bathrooms for $1.85 million. The 104-year-old colonial villa is likely one of the oldest Mediterranean-style homes in the neighborhood, Lewis said.

She said it was the bright terracotta roof, white stucco exterior and French windows that first attracted her to the house. It was, in short, the opposite of the couple’s previous dark wood Victorian house, which they had renovated. “I’m completely fed up with it,” Lewis said. “All we did for nine years was work on it.” “When this came out, I loved it because it was clean and bright.”

Today, many features of the Summit Avenue house look similar to how they did when it was built. The couple found the original bench and dining set.

“We were able to get it from the family. It was there in 1919, and now it’s here again — and it’s still here,” she said. “I hope whoever buys this house wants it.”

Accurate updates

When making updates, Lois and Bill did everything they could to make sure anything new matched the old style, from the trim to the floorboards.

They converted the second floor sleeping porch into a double-entrance bathroom that connects to two bedrooms. The Stevens family remodeled the basement—save only the fireplace and original bookshelves. It now has a wine cellar, ample space for children to run around, and a sauna.

Then in 2016, the couple remodeled the kitchen, opening up walls, adding windows, and installing new cabinets and appliances.

“We took it all down to the studs and started over,” Lewis said. “It looks a lot brighter here now.”

Stevens hopes whoever buys the house will appreciate its history as much as he does, and even stay connected. They’re not moving far, they’re downsizing to an apartment a block away.

“This neighborhood is very friendly, and we know a lot of people,” Lewis said. “When we were looking to sell before, we thought we’d have to move far away. But this house needs maintenance and care. Then I found a place in Grand Hill and thought, ‘Perfect,’ we’ll move there.”

Michael D. Smith (651-324-6211, mikesmithrealty@gmail.com) of Anderson Realty has $1,850,000. existing.

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