You would not really suspect it walking down West Street, but two of the city’s oldest buildings are tucked away in that corner of the Creative District. Jan Almquist, a former city manager turned realtor, has been fixing one of them for almost a year.
“The house itself is the reason I’m here,” said Jan. “I didn’t want it destroyed or changed into something it wasn’t.”
Jan said she was introduced to the house through Laura Semmelroth, Creative District strategist. After many trips and tours of the house, she said she fell in love. Eventually, she bought the home in 2016 and in doing so, joined the Creative District community.
She has spent almost all of her time since then, fixing and renovating the historic home, known as the Woodward House. It needed a lot of work.
“When we first got in here, there was debris as high up as a regular table,” she said. “We didn’t even know if we had floors. That’s how bad it was. Now look at it.”
When you walk through the front door, you walk past the original narrow staircase on the original wooden floors into a living room that is something straight out of the colonial era.
The Woodward House was built in 1745 and Jan has done a painstaking job to make sure that building’s historical elements were restored as much as possible. So far, two floors are done and the work continues two stories up above.
“There are a lot of artifacts in the house that you really can’t find anywhere else around here,” Jan said. “This fireplace for example, is from when the house was built in 1745. It is still burnable. There is a powder horn drying shelf over the top of it and that really makes you think and takes you back to a completely different time.”
Jan likes to talk about the history within the walls of the Woodward house and with good reason. Originally built by a Quaker rope maker, the home has gone through many different changes over the centuries. Just walking through the halls is like a trip in a time machine.
Though, she admits she didn’t know about the Creative District before buying the house, Jan said she is very happy with the work that is being done to change the neighborhood.
“It’s a gorgeous area, and there a lot of really great people in it. But those people are hiding behind their doors and we need to get them out. And to do that we need to have some place for them to go and something for them to do.
Bit by bit, Jan says, work is being done to bring something new to those who live in the area. Something that can really be transformative to the lives of those who live there.
“We need a place where the neighborhood can coalesce,” said Jan. “I’m hoping that that is what happens in the Creative District, because you are bringing people together with a like-minded plan. These are all do-ers. They are people that make and create things and that is what we need.”
Though she might not be an artist, Jan still feel she can contribute to the Creative District.
“I see my role here in the Creative District as a stable point,” she said. “I’ve made friends with the people who live in the neighborhood. A lot of great people. Maybe if we can provide some stability in a different kind of way, you can change the way people see the area.”