Saved from demolition; up for sale at $1.6 millionThe Cotton Mansion in Duluth, which was saved from the wrecking ball 15 years ago and turned into a premier bed and breakfast, is for sale.
By: Candace Renalls, Duluth News Tribune
The Cotton Mansion in Duluth, which was saved from the wrecking ball 15 years ago and turned into a premier bed and breakfast, is for sale.
The asking price: nearly $1.6 million.
Owners Ken and Kimberly Aparicio — who painstakingly restored the crumbling stone, ornate woodwork and returned the grand rooms to their original splendor — are ready for a change.
They want to follow their sons as they go to college in the Southeast. One son is starting college this fall in Savannah, Ga. The other son will head for college in South Carolina or Florida in a couple of years.
“We’re just nerdy parents, and we’re going to follow them there,” Kimberly Aparicio said. “We’re interested in being close to where our family will be.”
And at 65, Ken says he has hit retirement age.
“It’s a lot of house for me to maintain on a regular basis,” he said of the 11,700-square-foot mansion at 2309 E. First St.
The couple expects the three-story mansion and 1,700-square-foot carriage house on one-half acre in Duluth’s Congdon Park neighborhood will take one to three years to sell.
“We anticipate that someone who understands the value of the Gilded Age homes will eventually come along,” Ken Aparicio said of the mansion that historic preservationists have called an architectural masterpiece. “It’ll be a matter of the right person looking for a house like this.”
Tom Little, their listing agent with Coldwell Banker, doesn’t think it will take that long to sell.
“With the market the way it is, I wouldn’t think it would take that long,” he said. “It could take a month; it could take two years.”
Until then, the Aparicios will continue operating the stately mansion as a B&B. Its spa rooms go for $225 a night on Fridays and Saturdays, $199 the rest of the week, according to their website.
The property’s asking price includes the business, though the buyer may not want to continue it as a B&B. Little and the Aparicios say there’s a 50-50 chance that the buyer will want to use it as a family residence again.
That’s how people who have expressed interest in the property so far say they’d use it, said Little. And that’s the route some other historic Duluth B&Bs have gone after being sold in recent years, including Manor on the Creek at 2215 E. Second St., The Mansion at 3600 London Road and the Lord Frazer House at 2426 E. Superior St.
Moreover, these properties generally sell to buyers from outside of the area.
The Aparicios fell into that category. They were living in the Twin Cities when they first saw the century-old Cotton Mansion during a stay at the Olcott House B&B across the street.
Its classic Italian Renaissance architecture had been popular among the wealthy at the turn of the 20th century. The house featured hand-carved stone and hand-carved plaster frieze ceilings, exotic wood, Italian marble fireplaces and a stained-glass dome topping a grand staircase.
It was built by Joseph Bell Cotton, a Duluth attorney who had been the corporate attorney for U.S. Steel before going to work for John D. Rockefeller. Cotton gained fame by helping Rockefeller take away the mining and railroad empire that the Merritt family had built in Northeastern Minnesota.
But the house had seen better days.
For decades after the Cotton family had left, it had been used for student housing and rentals. Walls were added to create more rooms. In 1997, stone was crumbling and overgrown bushes obscured much of the first floor. Inside, woodwork had turned gray, hardwood floors had never been refinished and tapestries were torn and tattered. Every part of the house needed work.
“It was in pretty dire condition,” Ken Aparicio said.
The property owner at the time threatened to sell off the interior features and tear down the house if it didn’t sell, the News Tribune reported at the time.
The Aparicios bought the Cotton Mansion for $250,000 in January 1998, according to city records, and embarked on a major restoration.
The couple owned several salons in the Twin Cities at the time, and Regis Corp. came along with an offer to buy them out. They accepted.
“We were fortunate,” Ken Aparicio said. “We needed every bit of that to do the restoration.”
They put hundreds of thousands of dollars into restoring the Cotton Mansion, he said.
“We basically took everything out of the house that wasn’t there originally and made it more historic,” Ken Aparicio said. “We basically gutted the second and third floors and got to bare walls and recreated the look of the rooms we wanted.”
But most importantly, they got it back to the way the house probably felt when it was owned by the Cotton family, he said.
So much so that when the 77-year-grandson of Cotton visited the house five years ago, he told the couple that it looked and felt just as it did when he was a boy.
That told Ken that they had done a good job.
“If we can sell it at the right price, we’re happy to have somebody else take over and hopefully continue keeping the house as a great piece of Duluth history,” he said.
But leaving will be bittersweet, since they love the house, love Duluth and have loved raising their family there, Kimberly Aparicio said.
“Sometimes I walk through and wonder, ‘What will the next owners be like?’ ” she said. “With these old houses, a lot of times you’re just caretakers of them, and they go on to somebody else.”
But what if the mansion doesn’t sell?
“We’ll continue to do work on the house,” Ken Aparicio said. “We’ll be here. We’ll continue to run a bed and breakfast and figure it out from there.”