After five years on the market, the historic Huff-Lamberton house has been sold to Winona's Bluff City Properties.

Sauer Memorial Home sold the property for $600,000, just over half of the $1.1 million the property was assessed at in 2006.

The 1.7-acre property includes a mansion, a carriage house and a court building. Bluff City plans to use the mansion for older adult housing, while continuing to rent the carriage house and court building.

The new owners said they plan to maintain the outside appearance of the mansion, and that the Winona County Historical Society will advise all interior maintenance and renovations.

They said the building will remain open to the public periodically. The annual ice cream social will continue to be held, as well as a possible Christmas tour.

"We are very excited and grateful for the opportunity to be the new stewards of this amazing local landmark," Bluff City President Scott Hanson said Wednesday in a release. "Regardless of the legal ownership, we believe that this beautiful structure also belongs to the city and its citizens."

For Sauer, the sale represents an opportunity to move forward.

"It removes a big hurdle for us," said Sauer President Terry Sonnenfeld. "It was a property that for years we hadn't had a big use for."

The sales process began in February 2006 after Sauer closed the assisted-living facility it had operated in the home since purchasing it in 1982. Sauer officials said then that the closure was motivated by financial constraints related to making the home more handicapped-accessible.

Sauer ran into obstacles during the five-year process, including an attempt to rezone the property that the Winona City Council denied. The rezoning would have allowed as many as 75 people to live on the property, depending on density factors.

Sonnenfeld told the council in June the property was tying up funds and could cost Sauer up to 100 jobs if not sold soon. The sale will now free the company from a significant amount of debt, he said.

Sauer also faced a potential obstacle when the city added the property to a list of historic Winona locations in 2006. Most exterior and some interior changes to properties on the list must be approved by the city's Heritage Preservation Commission.

The house has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 1976. The listing doesn't restrict renovations, only recognizes the property's significance.

Henry Huff, one of Winona's founders who named and bought stake in the city in 1853, built the house in 1857. It was later purchased by Henry Lamberton, whose family lived there until 1956. The Huff-Lamberton home was then used as an orphanage until Sauer purchased the building.

What it could have been

During the five years the Huff-Lamberton house was for sale, dozens of potential buyers expressed interest in the property.

Realtor Bob Skeels, the agent for the property, detailed several proposals in a release Wednesday:

  • A bed and breakfast, a common proposal.
  • A private residence. One potential buyer proposed turning the court building into a large indoor swimming pool.
  • A treatment center.
  • A "petorium." Skeels said one interested buyer wanted to turn the property into an upscale crypt for dead pets, where clients would pay about $10,000 to $15,000 to house departed companions. The California-based buyer seemed confident they could find clients willing to pay the price, Skeels said in the release.
    "Apparently they weren't quite confident enough to actually buy it," he said. "Maybe in California."

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