Von Hoffman House

Von Hoffman House

For immediate release March 14, 2011

Questions, call Kinley Slauter, (701) 623-4444 or (701) 872-6138

The Theodore Roosevelt Medora Foundation announced today plans to restore the historic von Hoffman House in Medora, after receiving a gift of some of the original furniture that was in the house more than a century ago.

The house was built in the fall of 1884, at the request of Athenais von Hoffman, so she and her husband, the Baron von Hoffman, would have a place to stay when they visited their daughter Medora and her husband, the Marquis de Mores, in Medora.  The home is one of only two buildings veneered in local brick that remain in Medora, the other being St. Mary’s Catholic Church.

In 1885, the father of future North Dakota Poet Laureate James W. Foley Sr. moved into the house with his family and began serving as manager of the Marquis’ holdings in Medora.  From that point until sometime in the mid-20th century it was known as the Foley Lodge.  Medora Vallambrosa and her sons gifted the house to the Foley family in 1914, and three generations of the family lived in the house while continuing to serve the de Mores family.  Local residents looked after the house when the Foley family moved out during World War II.

The house was sold to Harold Schafer’s Gold Seal Company in 1969 and became the Medora Doll House. Schafer had visited a doll museum in the Black Hills, and thought it might be a good addition to his new tourist enterprise in Medora. He contracted Mabel Gurney, the doll expert from the Twin Cities who had assembled the South Dakota collection, and she began purchasing antique and interesting dolls for display in the museum. The majority of the current collection had been amassed by the time the von Hoffman House reopened as the doll museum in 1971.  Schafer gave the house to the Theodore Roosevelt Medora Foundation in 1986. The dolls in the collection currently in the house will be disposed of in the same manner they were purchased by Harold Schafer, through private sales to other collectors. Several dolls have been contributed to the collection through the years; efforts are underway to inform their donors of the plans.  They will be removed from the house this spring so work on restoration of the house can begin. The house will serve as a museum to interpret the early history of the town of Medora. The house was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1977.

The furniture is being donated by Jim Davis of Bismarck, a Foley family descendant. Planning for the restoration of the house will take place this spring and summer, construction will start in the fall, and plans are to have the initial restoration and interpretive displays, including the furniture, ready for the public by late spring of 2012.

“There are two stories to be told here,” said Randy Hatzenbuhler, president of the Theodore Roosvelt Medora Foundation. “Not only that of Medora and her parents, who provided much of the financing necessary to support the Marquis de Mores’ business activities, but also the story of the Foley family, who began by working for de Mores and continued serving the community in numerous capacities for sixty years.”

“Having some of the original furnishings turn up like this is an incredible find,” Hatzenbuhler said. “We’re grateful to the entire Foley/Davis family for their appreciation of Medora history and to Mr. Davis for his generosity. We think visitors to Medora will enjoy having another piece of history come back to life.”

Hatzenbuhler said there may be other items from the original house still in the area, and he urged people who know of any items to contact the Foundation. In particular, he said, they are interested in finding out what happened to the piano which was brought to the house in the 1880’s and was last displayed there in the 1960’s.

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