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Spring Home: Leaving a Legacy, a View of the Sprafka Home in Detroit Lakes – Perham Focus

Editor’s note: The following originally appeared as the Detroit Lakes Tribune’s Spring Home magazine cover story, which was included as a free insert in the April 13, 2022 issue of the Tribune. Read the full magazine


in line.

Correction: The print edition of Spring Home magazine incorrectly credited Michael Achterling as the photographer behind the magazine’s cover photo of the historic Sprafka home in Detroit Lakes. In fact, this photo was provided by the Sprafkas and was taken by Lynn Reading. The spiral staircase photograph was also taken by Reading.

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It is made of century-old original wood, machined by the original owner. A city doctor once had a practice in his basement. And it has been home to three generations of the same family, who have passed the property down their family line for 98 years.

“I’m a little depressed and sad,” says Ron Sprafka, the home’s current owner, looking around the property in early spring. “That must be too much.”

Ron and his wife, Sandy, recently sold their historic home, perched on the corner of Summit Avenue and Frazee Street in Detroit Lakes, and will be leaving their family heirloom for the last time in late April 2022.

Ron and Sandy Sprafka of Detroit Lakes smile in front of their living room fireplace in their historic Detroit Lakes home. The Sprafka House, at the corner of Summit Avenue and Frazee Street, was completed in 1924 and has been home to three generations of the Sprafka family.

Michael Achterling / for Spring Home

The house sold for $409,000 – slightly more than Ron remembers his father paying for the place in 1939.

“When (my grandfather, Joseph Sprafka) was dying, he sold it to my father, and he said, ‘Would $20,000 be too much?’ “recalls Ron.

Joseph B. Sprafka came from Chicago to the Rat Lake area of ​​Becker County and became a lumberjack in the early 20th century. He operated a sawmill and in 1922 provided lumber for the construction of his family’s new home in Detroit Lakes.

Four different types of wood were used in the construction of the house, and all were supplied by the Sprafka factory: red oak is used on the ground floor, while birch and maple were used on the second floor of the house. The ceiling beams on the ground floor are quarter-sawn oak.

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View of the main wooden staircase of the Sprafka house in Detroit Lakes from the 1st floor. Much of the lumber used in the construction of the house was machined by Joseph B. Sprafka, the original owner of the property.

Michael Achterling / for Spring Home

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View of the main wooden staircase of the Sprafka house in Detroit Lakes. Much of the lumber used in the construction of the house was machined by Joseph B. Sprafka, the original owner of the property.

Contributed / Sprafka Family / Lynn Reading

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The second-story landing of the Sprafka home in Detroit Lakes, which features original light fixtures and milled wood by Joseph B. Sprafka, the home’s original owner.

Michael Achterling / for Spring Home

Sprafka commissioned renowned Polish architect Victor Cordella to design his dream home. Cordella had designed more than 20 churches in Minnesota, including St. Mary’s Orthodox Cathedral in Minneapolis and St. Constantine Ukrainian Orthodox Church on University Avenue. The famous architect is best known for designing the American Swedish Institute.

“Summit was the street to be in – that’s where all the big old houses are,” says Sandy Sprafka.

Becky Mitchell, executive director of the Becker County Historical Society and Museum, said the Sprafka home has been “well maintained” and renovations have retained the style and size of the unique rooms in the home.

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Ron and Sandy Sprafka of Detroit Lakes present the plans for the basement of their historic home.

Michael Achterling / for Spring Home

“It’s definitely a unique design, and if you ever see a picture of the Sprafka house, you know it’s the Sprafka house. You don’t see that style repeated in this area,” she says.

Mitchell thinks people will call the house “the Sprafka house” for years to come, even long after it is no longer owned by the Sprafka family.

“It’s an amazing structure with big windows, and of course the arches over the basement, and the woodwork is amazing,” says Mitchell. “To have the doctor’s office in the basement, Ambrose’s office, and we actually have a lot of his collection. They donated it to us.

Ron’s father, Ambrose Sprafka, lived in the house and was a doctor in Detroit Lakes for many years. Dr. Sprafka had an office in the basement of the house, but frequently made house calls to patients where they lived. On one such home visit, Ron recalls, one of his father’s patients found a human skull and other bones on their farm and his father brought the bones home, which put his mother uncomfortable.

“It was in a bucket – we all saw it – it was in a bucket in the corner,” Sandy said of the skull. Ron adds, “They had it on the downstairs porch and my mom didn’t want it in the house, so she ended up saying, ‘Ambrose, we have to get rid of this.’ So she took it off. »

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The first floor patio features interior brick walls and a wooden swing.

Michael Achterling / for Spring Home

He also laughs and says that one of his friends didn’t even want to walk past the house because of the bucket skull: “When he went to Holy Rosary, he lived there, in front of the community center, so he walked up to this block and then up and then to school, he wouldn’t come this way.

Growing up, Ron remembers how fun meetings were at home when his friends came over.

“We had a small pool table in the hallway and we played pool,” he says. “And we played catch in the front yard, and we had friends sleeping on the porch because there’s a swing bed over there.”

Ron and Sandy met while living in Bemidji State in the late 1960s. They married in 1970 and began traveling the world together. Memorably, they once watched the country’s bicentennial festivities from the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art – the same steps Rocky Balboa climbed in the famous “Rocky” film series.

“We were sitting at the top of those steps, watching the Bicentennial fireworks,” Ron recalled. Sandy adds, “And we watched the parade.”

Eventually, they moved back to Detroit Lakes – having exhausted all their overseas money, they say – and Ron ended up teaching in the Detroit Lakes School District; something he would do for the next 29 years.

“Six years at Lincoln and the rest at Rossman, 5th grade,” he says. “They’re a fun age group, just interested in learning.”

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The Sprafka House kitchen is one of the only spaces in the house that has been remodeled to keep up with changing technology and utilities.

Michael Achterling / Spring House

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The dining room at the Sprafka home in Detroit Lakes features built-in cabinetry.

Michael Achterling / for Spring Home

Ron and Sandy bought their own home near Minnesota Avenue and Willow Street, and the couple started their own Detroit Lakes Chapter together.

In 1980 Ron’s father passed away and as the decade progressed Ron’s mother began thinking about selling the house. Ron and Sandy decided to buy it.

Ron bought the house from his mother in 1987. They raised their two boys, Ron and Jim, in the house and also opened their doors to foreign students over the years.

The couple have hosted seven different international students since 1997 and have stayed in contact with many of them over the years. The Sprafkas set up the students with their own basement apartment in her father’s former office while they were in Detroit Lakes.

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The original marital veil worn by Ron Sprafka’s grandmother in the early 20th century is displayed on a wall of the Sprafka home in Detroit Lakes.

Michael Achterling / Spring House

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The second story patio features a bed swing, traditional wooden swing and other seating at the Sprafka house in Detroit Lakes.

Michael Achterling / for Spring Home

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Bath at the Sprafka House in Detroit Lakes.

Michael Achterling / for Spring Home

With the exception of the kitchen, which has been updated with new appliances and utilities over the years, the house remains as Joseph B. Sprafka commissioned it nearly 100 years ago.

One of Sandy’s favorite additions to the original concept was the remodeled kitchen.

“There was no heat in that room, so when we did the renovation, we installed heated floors,” says Sandy. “I love them.”

After retiring, Ron and Sandy started thinking about downsizing. They decided to put the house on the market after their sons refused to buy the house. They accepted the new owners’ offer for the 4 bedroom, 3 bath in February.

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A bedroom on the second floor of the Sprafka house in Detroit Lakes.

Michael Achterling / Spring House

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“They liked what they saw and that’s what they wanted,” Ron says of the buyers.

On April 28, Ron and Sandy Sprafka will leave their 98-year-old farm for the last time. They move to a cabin on the south side of Lake Detroit.

“But, we’re having a hard time leaving,” admits Sandy.

When asked how he would feel when he saw the house without Sprafka under the roof for the first time in its history, Ron replied, “I think it’s going to be difficult.”